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UK water companies urged to share data with suppliers

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By sharing data with wastewater treatment equipment providers, UK water companies can support the design, build and operation of their own plants, as well as reduce costs and drive innovation.

According to WPL’s technical director Andrew Baird, through closer collaboration utilities can get even more from their suppliers.

For example, by having sight of specific site data ahead of a project’s design, as well as operational information post-completion, manufacturers and suppliers can ensure the best system is installed and that it is operating optimally.

The reluctance of some water companies to share relevant data can hold back progress. With Ofwat calling on closer collaboration between the utilities and supply chain in AMP7, now could be the time to review processes so comparable data, such as final effluent quality and power consumption, can be shared more easily.

WPL supplies wastewater treatment equipment and in most cases, treatment plant design is based on theoretical criteria – usually generic data that can be up to 20 years old. If water companies made it possible for designers to base their designs on actual data, significant savings could be made, particularly around sizing and power consumption.

Once a new treatment solution is in place, having insight into how the process is operating, including flow and load information and treated effluent quality, would offer a number of benefits.

From a product improvement perspective, it would allow the designers to make minor alterations ensuring optimum performance. In terms of research and development, the information could help shape the supplier’s ongoing design work, enabling further refinements to the technology offered to customers, while driving innovation.

Data-led research projects

WPL’s biggest data-led research project is at Petersfield wastewater treatment works’ environmental technology field station, which is being carried out in conjunction with Portsmouth University. The company is supporting a three-year PhD research project examining the data around energy consumption and process efficiency in WPL’s Hybrid-SAF wastewater treatment technology.

The university researcher is exploring how much power could be conserved at night when flows are low. Could smaller blowers be used?  Information like this has real value – if a blower half the size could be fitted, significant savings could be made, savings that water companies are potentially missing out on by not sharing their own power consumption data.

A recent project with Welsh Water opened up new opportunities for collaboration when the onsite operations team provided practical feedback on WPL’s conical settlement tank. WPL then redesigned the outflow weir resulting in an installation that is easier to clean and maintain.

Another example of successful data sharing between client and supplier is at Wessex Water’s Sherborne wastewater treatment works, where existing infrastructure was retrofitted with WPL’s Hybrid-SAF technology. Through close collaboration from the outset, WPL was able to fully understand the objectives of the client, leading to a cost-saving of 75% in capital expenditure.

Water quality data from the first year of operation showed that discharge from the plant was well within the Environment Agency’s permit. Ammonia levels in the discharge effluent were below the level of detection on a consent of 10mg/l. Parameters on biological oxygen demand, turbidity and temperature were also met.

WPL is still getting valuable performance data from the site, allowing the team to look objectively at the next steps, proving the value of openness and collaboration.