England’s water companies have signed up to a number of pledges, including tripling the rate of leakage reduction across the sector by 2030.
The new Public Interest Commitment has been created by the water industry following engagement with customers. It showed that the public want companies to do more than just provide clean water, and do more to tackle wider social and environmental challenges.
They also committed to work together towards five challenging goals for the sector in England as a whole:
Each goal will be supported by a programme of work, collaborating with companies and organisations within and outside the water utility sector to share expertise and identify what needs to be done. An independent panel will report annually on progress toward achieving these goals, starting in April 2020.
This initiative comes at a time when Ofwat is preparing to set out how all water sector players can come together to create a shared vision for its future.
This ‘social contract’ has been an implicit agreement between the water utility and the consumer, the customer. Up to now, this has been seen as something that came as part of a focus on improving water quality, reducing leakages and enhancing habitats for wildlife.
It is also about protection of assets and communities from future environmental threats.
Identifying Infrastructure Threats
One of the key threats to water infrastructure and in particular from sewerage is the risk of flooding and in particular groundwater infiltration to sewer pipes. In large groundwater events, ingress of floodwater can mix with the sewerage and impact on watercourses, supplies and natural habitats – therefore threatening a key part of the water utilities’ social contract in the new Public Interest Commitment.
GeoSmart has been working with water companies to identify locations where infiltration to the sewer system occurs. A risk data layer has been developed which classifies sections of sewer network that are potentially at risk from groundwater infiltration via a range of mechanisms based on geology, topography and groundwater depth. A dynamic assessment of risk can be derived by combining this with the Geosmart Groundwater Forecast.
Sections of the network are classified according to the likelihood of being below the water table at different frequencies. The infiltration risk layer can be used to prioritise areas for CCTV survey and support use of groundwater infiltration modelling within Infoworks ICM and other systems.
The ICM model is advanced integrated catchment modelling software, enabling quick, accurate combination of complex hydrological factors. The tool helps plan for capacity improvement, system expansions and emergency scenarios.