Faucet with flowing water closeup

Keeping taps flowing is a top priority for all water companies, not least because interruptions to customers’ supply are unacceptable.

Also, pollutions, leakage and flooding all come with hefty financial penalties from regulators if targets aren’t met. But it’s about more than that. It’s about providing consistent, excellent customer service, building trust and a good reputation for being great at what we do.

It’s also about keeping pace with increasing expectations from customers in terms of the service they receive, and the scrutiny of the way in which brands conduct themselves when the spotlight of a crisis is shining down on them.

This is why Anglian Water was an early adopter of British Standard BS 25999 and the first UK company to transition to ISO 22301, the International Standard for business continuity management. It’s why it places considerable emphasis on investing time, money and supporting its people on emergency planning and incident management, so when things do go wrong measures are in place to put things right as quickly and seamlessly as possible. And it’s why it’s led the industry on cyber preparedness, sharing its award-winning Cyber Monsters campaign with other water and energy companies across the country to help employees become more cyber safe.

Prevention is better than cure

Amy Southward, Emergency Planning Manager for Anglian Water, said: “Prevention is very much the ethos across the business when it comes to incident management. Ninety per cent of the work behind the scenes focuses around having resilient systems and technology which monitors the network and alert teams to potential problems before they arise. Resilience is key, and it takes many different forms.”

Anglian Water has the largest telemetry system in Europe which acts as the eyes and ears of its operational assets. All monitoring stations pass information to specialised alarm handlers who despatch jobs to local engineers who can investigate and take corrective action when necessary.

But it’s not all about data, and the planning doesn’t stop there. The old adage ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ was never truer than in the water industry. A plethora of plans are always on the shelf ready and waiting for every eventuality from drought or flooding, to severe weather and water supply alternatives, all with the same goal of continuing to provide service whatever the issue.

Building resilience for the future

Sometimes it’s simply not enough to have plans in place. Anglian Water continually invests to ensure its assets are resilient. With forecast population growth, it more important now than ever that sites are equipped and prepared to deal major outages should they occur. Anglian Water has recently completed a groundbreaking multi-million pound scheme using existing equipment to reverse the direction of flow through one of the company’s biggest water mains linking Grafham Water Treatment Works in Cambridgeshire with Hannington, near Pitsford Water in Northamptonshire in the event of an emergency power outage.

When the going gets tough…

Whichever way you cut it, the way a company responds to an incident is crucial in terms of quick resolution, business resilience and protection of hard-earned reputation. This is where Anglian Water really excels, and it uses such opportunities as a chance to shine.

Restoration of customer supply is always the priority. Steve Lunn, Restoration Manager for Anglian Water, said: “Getting things back to normal for our customers is our focus. We even prioritise getting customers back on water over repair initially. Whether we do this by rezoning the network, using tankers or overland pipes depends on the situation, but it is the most important thing to us.”

“Our dedicated restoration team will look at all potential options to restore water supplies and have a suite of different tools in their armoury that they can draw on to get the job done.”

Anglian Water has a fleet of tankers strategically placed around the region ready to deploy whenever they are needed. The company has recently purchased a “super-tanker”, which has a 29,000 litre capacity and can be used in areas with a larger population or feed directly into affected storage points like water towers or reservoirs.

The dedicated restoration team are specifically trained to be able to drive and operate the tankers as part of their role, as well as deploy fully equipped overland trailers which enable sections of burst pipes to be bypassed while the repairs are made. Anglian Water is the only water company to up-skill their employees in this way.

More recently the teams have been trialling specialist encapsulation collars which can be used when a pipe has burst at a join. The collars go around the damaged section of pipe, allowing the water to continue flowing while the repair is made. Equipment like this is all part of the company’s critical supplies structure which keeps key specialist equipment in stock should it be needed.

Behind the scenes

This work on the ground is supported by more than 300 trained incident response staff who put in place effective structures to respond to incidents at all levels through the business. They ensure the company can respond quickly 24/7, 365 days a year from initial preparedness and escalation of an incident through to response and recovery.

Amy continued: “During an incident, customer needs are at the heart of all we do. Our teams behind the scenes will be working to identify vulnerable customers who need extra assistance. Our Incident Support managers are visible in the local community and on hand to offer updates and advise when needed. They play a critical role for us in getting a feel for customer perception and sentiment as well as identifying and solving individual customer issues.”

All in all, it’s a team effort. From the operational teams and engineers with ‘boots on the ground’ getting things back to normal as quickly as possible, to the customer facing support staff working to keep people up to date with the latest information, and not forgetting the staff who dedicate their time to preventing incidents from happening in the first place by keeping things running as they should. Everyone has a common aim; to be the best that we can be and continue to provide excellent, trustworthy customer service.