There is growing concern that the UK could be heading for a future of increasing water scarcity, as a surge in demand for water coincides with the driest May in 124 years.
Despite its rainy reputation, the UK’s water reserves have become substantially strained over the past few months, following an extraordinary about-turn in weather this spring, flipping from floods to drought.
The Met Office announced a record 573 hours of sunshine between 1 March and 27 May, beating the previous record from 1948, meaning that within a few short weeks, significant parts of the UK could be staring down the barrel of empty water butts due to reservoirs running dangerously low. These long, dry sunny spells, coupled with an increase in water demand as a result of people remaining at home during the coronavirus lockdown, means many water companies are only weeks away from needing to bring boreholes back online to prevent water running out.
Boreholes play a vital role in the supply of water, but some have remained unused for years, with no power or plc to communicate and control data. As with all other water treatment works, the water within the boreholes needs to be treated and monitored prior to discharge to ensure the water is clean and safe. However many water companies lack the technology to be able to do this quickly and effectively.
Balancing Water Demand with Resources
To address this issue, back in 2018, ATi UK’s Innovation Hub worked in partnership with one of the country’s leading, proactive water companies, to develop a ground-breaking emergency start-up solution that enabled a fast, effective and timely action to help form a more sustainable future for drinking water.
Following long dry spells, the utilities company needed a series of boreholes to be brought back online within a matter of days, whilst also creating a long-term solution for monitoring and controlling their water quality. After previously working alongside ATi UK’s Innovation Hub to develop the pioneering SiteBox, which housed ATi’s industry-leading M-Node sensors, GSM and battery in a water tight, portable box, they were confident that this offered them the perfect solution. SiteBox allowed them to employ proactive control with early-warning alerts that identified potential risks to water quality, whilst also enabling engineers to easily ‘lift and shift’ the equipment at short notice to another location, with a simple ‘plug and play’ set-up.
Real-time data from each borehole was sent from SiteBox GSMs to a cloud-based platform, allowing the water company to compare the information directly with the site PLCs, monitoring multiple water streams from different parts of the treatment process, in one location. Raw water was tested via the inlet with parameters such as conductivity, turbidity and pH, cross-checking them on a separate water stream in the middle of the process with the addition of chlorine M-Nodes, and then again on the final water stream prior to discharge. The SiteBox units also used dual and triple validation for some areas to provide peace of mind in the information being provided.
This fast, proactive technology enabled the forward thinking water company to supply around 25% more water than usual to keep pace with the surge in demand, whilst issuing customers with advance warning of the change to the water blend into taps.
Due to its flexible method for delivering information, even from remote locations, SiteBox can be used anywhere that water quality measurement and control is needed, from drinking water treatment to process water in the food industry. Its modular nature enables users to tailor a bespoke monitoring system that fits individual site requirements. SiteBox can be used on its own as the input to a control system, or alternatively as an independent monitoring system that polices existing water quality monitors.
With delivery to start up in minutes, SiteBox is quick to install and can generate live data in as little as 30 minutes. The versatile ‘lift and shift’ system also has a tiny footprint, low water usage and can be configured for dual validation, triple validation and multi-stream, with up to eight sensors and over 20 parameters to choose from.
Building a Sustainable Future
Over the last 12 months, SiteBox has been used by a variety of customers in trials for different applications, with the results proving to be industry-changing.
Demonstrating the versatility in its usage, SiteBox has also recently been used by the world’s largest provider of water systems for global events, including sporting games and rock festivals. The components, including pumps, tanks, valves, sensors and plc controllers, are all held in warehouses around the globe. Temporary systems are put together and must be robust, easy to use, easy to ship, easy to start up and easy to maintain. SiteBox has allowed these customers to have off-the-shelf water quality systems ready for immediate deployment.
ATi UK’s National Sales Manager, Vicky Banks, believes that now is the time for the water industry to plan ahead for increasing water shortages and become proactive rather than reactive. “Sadly, water shortages are not one-off events – year on year the UK is experiencing longer dry periods. To cope with the increasing demands, the National Audit Office state that water companies will need to cut the volume of water removed from source by more than a billion litres a day, creating huge shortfalls in the coming decades. The spending watchdog predicts that four billion litres of additional water supply will be needed per day by 2050 to counter the growing risk of drought from climate change, with the country’s total water supply forecast to drop by 7% by 2045.
“With this in mind, now is the time for water companies to prepare for a more sustainable future, enabling the industry to increase optimisation and resilience with proven, cutting edge technology. By working in partnership with our valued customer, ATi UK has developed a solution with SiteBox that brings boreholes back online quickly, safely and effectively.
“The versatility of the SiteBox system means water companies can now proactively plan ahead for any water shortages, allowing forward-thinking water utilities to monitor, alarm and prevent events that could affect the water quality supply, minimising any disruption.
“The future of emergency water quality management is changing fast, but staying ahead of the game will allow for a better balance between demand and resources moving forward.”
Read more about this on the front page of the latest edition of Water Active http://www.wateractiveonline.co.uk/