- The water system in England and Wales is heavily reliant on technology, with tens of thousands of sensors tracking and identifying potential blockages and flooding risks and complex data collection mechanisms monitoring water quality changes.
- While smart technology has allowed for improved services for vulnerable customers and efficient water management, the aging pipelines, increasing demand, and climate change pose significant challenges that require immediate attention.
Water companies provide drinking water and sewage services to more than 50 million households in England and Wales, with a sewage network that could wrap around the world 13 times. Innovators in data, technology, and the internet of things are needed to help develop solutions to address these challenges. Last month, Ofwat launched the Water Discovery Challenge, a £4m competition inviting innovators outside of the water sector to apply their ingenuity and skills to deliver breakthrough solutions to be used by the water sector.
The Water Discovery Challenge is part of Ofwat’s £200 million Innovation Fund, which aims to generate new ideas to tackle issues such as managing leaks, preventing pollution, improving water efficiency, reducing emissions, boosting flood and drought resilience, prioritizing sustainable practices, and supporting vulnerable customers.
Potential of Smart Technology To Revolutionize Water Sector
Smart technology has the potential to revolutionize the water sector, from improved water treatment technology to flooding risk management and better delivery of services for all customers. Sensors can collect and transmit data from geographically disparate locations nationwide, while remote source management data systems and water quality tracking can provide endless possibilities. Smart technology could also rewrite the leak management and maintenance rulebook, especially for inaccessible or remote locations.
The previous competitions from Ofwat’s Innovation Fund have seen numerous winning tech and data-related entries, such as the Water Quality As-A-Service Treatment-2-Tap project, which explores how sensor technology could identify poor quality water, alert companies ahead of customers and allow them to tackle the issues causing the problem.
Water Discovery Challenge
To enter the Water Discovery Challenge, up to 20 teams of innovators will be awarded up to £50,000 to develop their ideas, with expert support and mentoring from water companies. Up to 10 teams will win up to £450,000 to turn their ideas into pilots. The challenge closes on April 5, 2023.
The Water Discovery Challenge seeks to address the water sector’s challenges through innovation and technology. Successful entries could improve water management, address climate change challenges, and ensure that water services are provided efficiently and sustainably for the growing population.