The water sector is facing many challenges in the coming years, ranging from climate change and sustainability concerns to ensuring customer affordability and operational resilience.

Within the water industry, a significant portion of critical assets lie underground, hidden from view. Protecting these assets is essential to maintaining a reliable water supply, preventing disruptions to services, but also reducing leakage and ensuring the health of assets is well managed.

Asset protection has been a hot topic in the water industry for decades, but it continues to grow in importance as more pressure is put on delivering an affordable and reliable service to home and business owners nationwide. Digdat, a provider of underground asset mapping systems, has seen a 16% growth in the number of asset searches being carried out year-on-year and a 47% increase over the last five years. The increasing interest and care taken to protect assets feeds the need for increased innovation in the industry.

Steve Wrightam, Head of Digdat explains, “The increased usage of the Digdat systems in recent years has been exciting, both in terms of the number of asset searches carried out but also the number of asset owners signing up for the system to help better protect their infrastructure. The Digdat portal already enables asset checks to be made on site, 24/7, without the need to email a request or wait for a response and we are continually looking to develop the service and support our partners in delivering their long-term strategies.”

Ensuring asset resilience enables water wholesalers to reliably serve their customers, minimising unexpected disruptions or failures to supply, and continually providing the level of service customers expect.

Water wholesalers are also under increased pressure to place more focus on leakage levels, as part of the PR24 framework. Ensuring underground asset data is kept up-to-date, along with more organisations and individuals carrying out asset searches, is sure to contribute to the achievement of this goal. Digdat also provides a platform to show full visibility of water network repairs, maintenance work and potential disruptions, with customers having the ability to report back issues such as leaks, to the network. This helps with adaptive planning and prioritising the improvements required to deliver services efficiently.

Protecting assets isn’t just about the financial and reputational risk to businesses though; asset strikes can also cause serious injuries.

In 2022, HSE reported dozens of injuries as a result of asset strikes. Although the number of incidents has declined over time, avoidable life-changing injuries, and even deaths, are still occurring.

For further change to happen, more utilities need to provide a view of their assets; sharing data creates a clearer picture of what’s below the ground and a safer environment for all.

Digdat and other service providers, be it smart metering, wastewater processing and others delivering service improvements, can together provide much-needed value when it comes to fulfilling customer needs and providing maximum benefit to asset health and resilience.

Is there more that can be done to protect water companies’ assets? Absolutely! And innovation will be key to delivering the next level of operational resilience.