150 delegates, including representatives from 15 UK water utilities, took part in Stonbury’s seventh annual Water Industry Asset & Quality Conference on 20 November 2018. The event took a deep dive into water quality issues as they relate to maintenance of drinking water structures.

Water companies have many challenges in AMP7 (the asset management period which runs from 2020-25) and Ofwat is putting ever more pressure on water companies to drive up customer satisfaction. Customers were very much in the minds of the speakers at the Stonbury event, which took place at the Hilton St George’s Park, training ground of the England football teams.

Speakers from Anglian Water and Northumbrian Water opened up about two incidents that had attracted customer complaints about taste and odour in drinking water. In both cases the cause was contractors’ failure to follow instructions for use (IFUs) – on a filler and a lining product. The companies have collaborated with Stonbury to develop a code of practice (CoP) for the application of specialist materials to drinking water structures, which will be rolled out following the approval from Water UK. 

Anglian Water’s head of water quality, Clair Dunn urged people to get a copy of the CoP and give feedback. Alan Brown, scientific support officer at Northumbrian Water said, “This isn’t just about the contractor, it’s about the water undertaker as well. We need to have the right information and the confidence that the process we’re working within works for us as well.”

Delegates were struck by the opportunities presented by the use of flow cytometry to measure water quality in distribution service reservoirs. Aidan Marsh, flow cytometry project leader, Northumbrian Water said, “What we’re hoping to do is produce a more biologically consistent water which will be more robust to pathogens by a lower chlorine dose. It’s that consistency that’s going to lead to customer satisfaction.”

Zoe Kellock, Severn Trent Water’s lead on distribution service reservoirs and tank coordination, described the multiple challenges the utility faces as it moves to a more proactive clean-inspect programme. “We’re still investing a lot of money in our reservoirs, we’ve still got a lot of reservoirs we need to take out an inspect,” she said.

“One of the most common failures we find is ingress around the hatch, so we are investing in a hatch improvement programme – it’s a simple thing, but it really boils down to better planning.”

James Stonor, CEO of Stonbury said, “I’m thrilled with the day’s event and the interaction we’ve had from everybody  - the speakers on the platform and the questions from the floor."

“We’ve heard a lot of concern about sustainability of assets and a lot of honesty about the challenges utilities are facing. There doesn’t seem to be a common approach to resolving that, so going forward I think the key issue is water company strategy - the strategies they’re going along with at the moment might not be fit for the future."

“I was particularly pleased to hear Aidan’s presentation on flow cytometry – that is the start of something really game-changing in terms of being proactive and predicting events, learning from that and building in machine-learning. I noticed there was a lot of note-taking during that session.”

Summing up Stonor said, “This is the seventh year for our Water Industry Asset & Quality Conference and I think we’ve seen some great initiatives today and some really interesting shares. The attitude of the water companies here - where they’re actually giving out their information, their data, is to be welcomed and I think it’s the next step-up – a big credit to them.”

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