Protecting water through digital technologies

Water is the most important resource on our planet. Yet every day billions of litres of water are lost through leakage, and by 2030 it is estimated that global water shortages could displace around 700 million people.

The reduction of network leakage has been identified as a critical factor in achieving water sustainability. In the UK alone, there are over 345,000km of mains water pipes. Throughout this vast network, Water UK reports that 2,954 million litres of water, which is around 20-30% of UK water production, is lost each day because of leakage. The UK regulator, Ofwat, is leading the way globally by setting water companies a target to reduce leakage by 16% by 2025, and UK water companies have committed to going further, aiming to deliver a 50% reduction in leakage by 2050. 

To meet these ambitious targets, large-scale network monitoring projects are needed which is a hugely complicated undertaking due to legacy water infrastructure. Approximately 90% of all leaks never show at ground level so leak detection still very much relies on manual listening tools and reactive measures; nothing much has changed for 50 years. 

Now digital technology is changing that. New digital solutions are enabling water companies to create more intelligent networks, fit for a modern water infrastructure. Halma company HWM is leading this transition with PermaNET+, their award-winning leak detection system that combines an acoustic leak sensor with cellular connectivity which can be placed strategically across the water network. Attached to the water pipe’s valve with a strong magnet, the sensors listen (predominantly at night) for any anomalies. Their findings are sent back to base and overlaid with digital maps to identify the exact location of any leak, enabling an engineer to quickly investigate the issue.

More recently HWM launched SpillSens, a digital positioning sensor that acts as an early warning system for sewer blockages and sewer overflows, preventing flooding incidents and pollution. This has been so successful that Severn Trent Water has deployed 1,600 sensors in target problem areas in the Midlands to provide early warning of issues so cleaning crews can remove blockages before pollution events occur.  

HWM was also named as one of the eight companies that will be collaborating with United Utilities in their Innovations Lab to develop the technology even further.  

HWM’s innovative technologies are supporting the sustainability goals of water companies globally while also ensuring that this life-critical resource is protected for everyone, every day.