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Welsh Water share today’s solutions for tomorrow’s challenges

31/01/2017

Welsh Water has brought water and environment industry experts and academics from leading UK universities together to recognise the challenges facing the UK water industry, identify innovative solutions and celebrate pioneering projects that improve performance, boost the environment and bring benefits to customers at its 2017 Innovation Conference.

Over 350 delegates attended today’s event, organised by the not-for-profit company, to exchange information, ideas and learning and discuss future research needs at Swansea University’s flagship Bay Campus.

Throughout the day, delegates heard how identifying and embracing innovative solutions to every day challenges has become part of everyday life at Welsh Water – from practical ‘on the ground’ solutions from Welsh Water colleagues to multi-million pound investments in renewable energy and research – but their ambition to be the UK’s leading water company for innovation means they are not resting on their laurels.

The company also explained the challenges they are facing and expect to face in the future, such as climate change, to encourage potential partners to share innovative and sustainable proposals that will stretch their future thinking.

Over the past 12 months, Welsh Water has invested £7.2 million in innovation projects that have improved services for customers and enabled them to continue to protect the environment including:

  • Investment in a two year coastal investigations programme at 49 sites around the Welsh coastline. The programme, developed in consultation with Natural Resources Wales, includes field oceanographic surveys, monitoring water quality in rivers, surface water drains and Welsh Water’s sewer network. The study is the largest such programme of investment ever undertaken in Wales and will provide evidence to support a greater understanding of the factors affecting water quality in Wales’ designated bathing and shellfish waters.
  • A wind turbine at the Swansea Bay Wastewater Treatment Works which reduces the company’s carbon footprint by creating its own renewable energy on site. This investment follows on from another £24 million investment at Welsh Water’s Five Fords Wastewater Treatment Works site near Wrexham, which will use five renewable technologies on one site
  • PestSmart encourages landowners to consider smarter, more environmentally friendly ways of weed, pest and disease control that do not impact on people, water or wildlife. By safeguarding and improving raw water quality before it enters a treatment works, Welsh Water can avoid the need for using additional chemicals and energy in the treatment process.
  • Through one of a number of learning and development programmes for staff to drive improved ways of working, Arfon Jones-Hughes, a member of Welsh Water’s Water Distribution team in north Wales has designed a tool that halved the time it takes to replace a supply pipe filter. His award-winning design improved health and safety practices, saved cost and time and has since been rolled out across parts of the business.

Tony Harrington, Director of Environment for Welsh Water, explains; “2016 was a fantastic year for our innovation programme. We completed 55 cutting edge projects, worked with 72 partner organisations, and won industry awards for our new ways of thinking. We’ve also trialled / continued to develop the newest technologies that only a year or two ago looked almost beyond our reach.

“It’s important that we continue this focus on new ways of working if we are to be recognised as an innovator in everything that we do and achieve our aim of being a truly world class, resilient and sustainable water service for our customers. Our annual innovation conference is a fantastic way of sharing the challenges and opportunities we think we’ll be facing with the very people who can help us build resilience and future proof our business for our customers.”

Speaking at the event, Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales said:

“The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 is an innovative and forward-thinking piece of legislation that has the potential to truly transform the way we do things here in Wales, shifting the focus and ambition from short-term gain to long-term well-being.

“The business sector has much to gain from thinking and embedding the sustainable principle into new ways of working, and Dŵr Cymru – Welsh Water has a crucial role in ensuring the well-being of future generations in light of the challenges we face with climate, economic and population change.

“Innovation and new technologies play an important part in the future but for us to make real, transformative change we need to work together in a joined-up way, planning for the long-term, involving people in the decisions that affect them, making sure that our actions today leave a Wales that is fit for future generations.”

Arup Water group leader, Catherine Wenger added: “Welsh Water has a clear drive to deliver innovation across its business. We see this drive daily in our work with them, as a partner in Welsh Water’s Capital Delivery Alliance. Arup is proud to contribute to many of Welsh Water’s innovation projects, including the ongoing coastal investigations programme, designed to strengthen understanding of how coastal communities around Wales can best prepare for climate change. Arup’s team was also involved in the design of the Swansea Bay wind turbine, a project that strengthens Welsh Water’s resilience by reducing its energy costs and its reliance on electricity purchases from the National Grid. This innovation day has been a great opportunity to discuss ideas and share best practice, and we were delighted that Arup’s global water leader, Mark Fletcher, joined us as keynote speaker.”

Without any shareholders, Welsh Water remains unique in the UK’s utility sector, ensuring any profit is reinvested directly into the company for the sole benefit of its customers.

The company contributes £1 billion to the Welsh economy every year and has worked with over 700 suppliers in Wales over the last 12 months.