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Northumbrian Water awarded funding to improve UK river quality

Northumbrian Water has announced a new Ofwat-funded project in partnership with Cognizant to use artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the region’s river health and water quality.

Cognizant Ocean and Northumbrian Water expect to better interpret river health trends and pollution patterns at scale by reviewing existing data from various environmental sensors, satellite imagery, and other relevant and available sources.

There are multiple factors that can impact river health, including agriculture, road runoffs, storm overflows and more.

To address the challenges that impact waterway health, Cognizant Ocean plans to also support the efforts to understand what constitutes healthy waterbodies and explore the stakeholder ecosystem around river health, including the challenges and needs of water companies, local communities, and industries.

Nigel Watson, Northumbrian Water’s chief information officer said: “Our long-term vision is to use data insights to address one of the biggest challenges we face – reducing river pollution.

“As such, we are making a £1.7bn investment in our wastewater and environmental programs from 2025 to 2030.

“In addition to spills of diluted sewage that occur from storm overflows at times of heavy rainfall, we know that many other factors can impact river water quality but what is less well known is the exact source, concentration and impact of other pollutants.

“In looking to work with Cognizant Ocean, we aim to improve our insights into river health, helping us optimize our investments and form targeted partnerships to better work together to improve the quality of UK rivers,”

The project expected to lay the groundwork for utilising AI and machine learning (ML) to improve the understanding of river health, and support Northumbrian Water in their work to provide drinking water supply and a thriving waterbody ecosystem for future generations.

Stig Martin Fiskå, global head of Cognizant Ocean said: “In our ongoing work with the UK water sector, we aim to develop AI-driven tools that will help water companies, communities and charities better understand and improve catchment management to secure drinking water and thriving ecosystems for future generations,”

“Innovating together with the wider ecosystem, we will give our rivers and shores a digital voice. Our anticipated collaboration with Northumbrian Water, in particular, aims to help improve the quality and biodiversity of the rivers in the North East of England and lay a strong foundation for other water systems organizations to leverage our expertise for the same.”

Findings in the preliminary phases of the project have already shown that satellite imagery and infrared data can be used to pinpoint the source and variety of pollution entering rivers. This identification of pollutants at scale will help to tackle what is a national problem. The image above shows the satellite image.

Cognizant Ocean focuses on the ocean industries with the aim to decarbonize the oceans and maximize the opportunities offered by the ocean economies. It leverages cutting-edge technologies and innovative solutions to drive sustainability, efficiency, and growth in the ocean industries.

The Ofwat Innovation Fund aims to grow the water sector’s capacity to innovate, enabling it to better meet the evolving needs of customers, society, and the environment. Ofwat are delivering a series of innovation competitions that water companies and others can enter. 



May 17, 2024

  • Build & Sustainability

Created by Kate Hewison