Graham Hainsworth

Driving down customer bills and securing water supply for all

Water is an essential service for all of us. A secure and high quality service must be delivered at affordable prices. Yet England is facing water supply shortages by 2050 unless rapid action is taken to curb water use and wastage, the Environment Agency is warning us..

What action can be taken to “curb water use and wastage” and how? Through PR19, Ofwat is setting some tough leakage reduction targets, and water companies are also trying to find ways to reduce the per capita consumption (PCC) of water in their areas. These “actions” are good in their own right - to help us secure future supplies – but should also help reduce the cost of bills to customers. A double win!

Still, the question remains - how can water companies make these wins? Is smart technology the answer?

Water companies have a continual challenge in delivering high quality services securely and at low cost. Their networks are largely buried underground, in remote and inaccessible locations and consisting of aging assets. They corrode, burst, leak, and get damaged by 3rd parties. Leakage is often hard to locate.  The companies have little control over the availability of water and the impact of environmental changes. Nor do they have much control over consumer demand or on demographic changes.  In fact, without widespread metering, information on who is consuming water and when is quite scarce.

However, water companies do have some smart tools that they can call upon to help address these challenges. They have massive amounts of data to help them understand what is happening in their networks, albeit not necessarily on consumption patterns. There is a proliferation of new sensors and monitoring devices being introduced that bring even more data to improve visibility.  The Internet of Things can access these data sources and make them readily available to water companies to help improve how they operate their networks. Smart meters are being introduced which give a much clearer view of consumption patterns. The concept of the smart home is being established. Artificial intelligence, robotics and augmented reality are techniques that are now commonly used in other industries. How can these smart enablers be used to improve customer service levels, drive down customer bills and secure water supply for all?

This is a question that CGI will be exploring with Northumbrian Water in their Innovation Festival in July. CGI is leading a Design Sprint which will find answers to that question – “Smart devices are filling up our homes. How can we improve customers' lives by making the most of smart technology?”  Why not join us at the Festival if you want to help find the answer or read our smart technology article in The Water Report

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