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UK’s First Smart Water Network Town

ATi has joined forces with United Utilities and nine other technology providers to create the UK’s first smart water network town.

Linking thousands of high-tech monitors and sensors onto Macclesfield’s water mains has created a machine-learning AI ‘brain’, which tells engineers if pipes have sprung a leak.

As well as helping spot leaks, data from the smart technology, including ATi’s MetriNet, will also alert United Utilities before incidents happen, enabling engineers to fix the problem so customers are not affected.

As well as recording vast amounts of real-time data, this pioneering system spots patterns over time and actually learns from them. The data it receives includes the condition of the mains and equipment, the amount of water being used, water quality and the pressure in the pipes, giving it the potential to detect and prevent many other non-leakage problems too.

ATi UK Executive Director, Garry Tabor, said: “Over the last few years, ATi UK have been strong advocates of multi-technology collaboration partnerships, so we welcome, endorse and support the efforts that have gone into making this ground-breaking project come to fruition.

“This is a significant step forward for the world of intelligent networks. Smart water is not just about leakage, it is also about safeguarding water quality and this project is a fantastic example of the multi-stakeholder collaboration that is necessary to make the future of smart networks and smart towns a success. 

“During this pilot, data from our MetriNet will be analysed to give insights, allowing the proactive management of distribution networks. Huge cost reductions will be made in areas such as mains rehabilitation, burst identification and prediction and control of flushing operations. It will also help to identify efficacy of the sensors, TOTEX, installation issues and collaboration opportunities. Developing this integrated approach with all the collaborative partners will revolutionise the industry.

“Being able to remotely manage equipment in real-time, proactively using machine learning, will mean that United Utilities can proactively replace pipes and equipment before they fail, enabling a truly intelligent and optimised solution.

“Digital innovation is the key to the future of smart water networks, enabling water companies like United Utilities to build a connected workforce, modernise operational processes and deliver enhanced customer service.  Smart Water is changing the water industry as we know it and embracing innovation and digital transformation is not only enabling utilities to address today’s unprecedented challenges, but also invest in the future.”

United Utilities Leakage Manager Paul Parr said, “Instead of getting data from things like pressure monitors, acoustic loggers and meters separately and having to cross-reference it themselves, analysts would now have a single platform helping them to make more informed decisions.

“Previously, if we had wanted to do some in-depth analysis we would be looking at a number of separate screens. Now we can see all the logger, pressure and consumption data on one screen and in more detail. We can locate the leaks faster and, just as importantly, we reduce the number of false positives where we send a repair team out and there’s no leak found.

“Plus, as the platform learns it gets better at predicting things which might be a problem for the customer down the line and sending us an alarm. It will never replace our engineers, but it means their time is much better spent on where it will have most effect.”

Nine other leading technology companies are collaborating in the trial, including Stantec, Xylem, Vodafone, Diehl, Inflowmatix, HWM, Gutermann, Technolog and Ovarro.

Head of Smart Networks and Leakage at Stantec, Damian Crawford, who is leading on technical development, said that although not the first Smart Water Network trial in the UK, Macclesfield was the first time the technology had been tested at the scale of a whole town.

“Macclesfield was ideal because it has a good mixture of rural, urban and residential communities and high and low terrain, so you get high and low pressure.

“The objective of the industry-wide collaboration is to show how technology can improve customer service by monitoring the health of the network using the latest state-of-the-art digital flow and leak sensors, advanced analytics and telecommunications channels.

“It aims to change the traditional way a water network is managed by layering the data from multiple sensors spread out across Macclesfield into a single visualisation display – a smart analytics platform. We will effectively be creating a digital twin of Macclesfield’s water main network which will provide live diagnostics from flow, pressure, acoustic and water quality monitors and aims to improve the service to customers by reducing leakage and bursts levels in the area.”

United Utilities has pledged to cut the North West’s water leakage by 15 per cent over the next five years and will initially focus on the water distribution network. The trial will also help better understand leakage on customers’ pipework and develop appropriate strategies to resolve it.

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