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Innovating the way

With more than 2.7 million people relying on its services every day, Northumbrian Water is constantly innovating to ensure better delivery of operations. Here, the company reveals more about its revolutionary focus and why it will never stop working on the advances of tomorrow.

Every morning, more than 2.7 million people across the North East wake up and turn straight to Northumbrian Water’s essential services to get their day started.

Whether it’s flicking on the kettle, flushing the toilet or the brushing of teeth, the water company is on hand to help the day begin in the right way.

However, behind that simple turn of a tap lies a whole host of hard work and dedication, which keeps the water flowing across our region.

With almost 60,000 kilometres of pipes to maintain, as well as hundreds of water treatment works and reservoirs to look after – and conservation work to help protect our delicate eco-systems – the high levels of service are maintained against more challenging conditions than ever before.

This means teams at Northumbrian Water are working harder and more creatively, using innovation to trial and test new technologies and approaches to deliver even better service for communities across the North East.

Right now, there are a number of trials taking place to help overcome a number of different challenges, which include reducing leakage and the reliance on the use of storm overflows.

They are off to a promising start, and will continue Northumbrian Water’s successful track record for developing revolutionary projects.

Most of the ideas developed originate at Northumbrian Water’s award-winning annual Innovation Festival.

Planning is now taking place for the eighth iteration of the huge event, which sees crowds of thousands gather at Newcastle Racecourse, and it has boasted some world-famous solutions that are making a real-life impact to customers every day.

The most renowned is the National Underground Asset Register, also known as NUAR.

The idea was developed at the festival in 2017, and was simply to create a map of the pipes, wires and cables hidden in the ground, with the main aim of keeping workers safe by preventing utility strikes.

Thanks to the collaboration with lots of different partners, hard work and a lot of testing in between, the real-life, digital underground map was officially launched last year across areas of England and Wales by the Government’s Geospatial Commission.

From a small festival tent in Gosforth, NUAR is now in service in the North East, London and Wales, with the plan to roll it out nationally.

Once it is fully operational everywhere, it is expected to deliver at least £350 million per year of economic growth through increased efficiency, reduced asset strikes and reduced disruptions for people and businesses.

Not only that, but it will also help to make digging safe for all utility workers.

But, thanks to yet another innovative project, digging is now not always even strictly necessary. The No Dig project, also a poster child of the

Innovation Festival, is now being used by water workers across the North East, freeing up traffic and road closures.

The solution, which is a food-grade, mineral-like substance, alleviates the need for teams to dig holes in roads by being injected into the pipe and healing it from the inside out.

It also means customers are likely to notice less of an impact on their water supply, as the fix is much more time efficient.

And it’s not just under the ground where Northumbrian Water’s innovative work is taking place – it’s up in the skies too.

In January, a world-first trial on water quality monitoring using drone technology took place in the North East.

The drones are used to take water quality samples in areas difficult for staff to manually reach, and will help make monitoring of the region’s waterways much more efficient.

They will also help reduce the company’s carbon footprint, and will provide the water company with more data over a larger area, with much faster results.

With more frequent and detailed monitoring, researchers also hope this will mean once the monitoring programme is in place, local water quality results can be made available to the public, in near real-time.

Angela MacOscar, who heads up the water company’s innovation team, says this is only the start of what can be achieved with innovation within the sector.

She says: “We love innovation and, at Northumbrian Water, it’s everywhere – it’s everything that we strive to keep doing for our customers, who are ultimately at the heart of our business.

“Innovation is crucial to our success, and solving some of the biggest challenges we have – not just as a company, but globally – is so important in making our services the best they can be.

“Among the business, there are some of the best, most creative and most innovative people I have ever come across, and they are always full of fantastic suggestions and ideas.

“The passion they have for improving their communities is outstanding.

“That’s why we will continue to focus on developing our innovation pipeline, to make a real difference to the region we love.”

March 6, 2024

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Created by North East Times