For the past two years Southern Water has been conducting a far reaching project aimed at delivering Zero Pollutions by 2040. We aim as a business to have achieved our ambition for zero pollution, with predictive analytics and automated control of our sewerage network as standard, with the addition of advanced monitoring of our assets enabling us to proactively pick up potential issues arising.

With 365 wastewater treatment works 40,000 km of sewer network and 3500 pumping stations it is an ambitious goal. And the key to delivering this outcome for customers and the environment lies in understanding the root causes of pollution and taking the right action.

The analysis of root causes highlighted a number of areas where ‘easy wins’ could be put in place. But even simple fixes require a coordinated approach and recognition that such measures have to form part of an integrated plan – specifically the execution plan under our five year Asset Management Period which sets out the priorities for investment and replacement.

By 2040 we aim as a business to have achieved our ambition for zero pollution, with predictive analytics and automated control of our sewerage network as standard. To enable use to achieve this

My role in the company is to reduce pollutions through technical solutions.

It’s the upkeep and maintenance of this machinery which require technical solutions which are then applied enabling them to be more resilient in power related issues.

Key projects are:

Automatic Pump Resets

One issue that was identified in our root cause analysis was the ‘tripping’ of key electrical equipment at our sites. A simple power surge in the energy grid cannot knock out a pumping station with potentially serious consequence for the environment. Our wastewater network spans the Isle of Thanet in the north east of Kent to the Isle of Wight in the South. Many sites – especially pumping stations – will obviously remain unmanned.

This project aims to provide an improvement in equipment resilience, whilst simultaneously improving operational efficiency.

Equipment resilience will be improved by reducing the amount of time the equipment is left in a failed condition (a fail condition consists of Power blip, equipment failure resulting in a manual reset and power spikes), allowing a potential increase in pumping time and a reduction in pollution risk. Automatically resetting the equipment also provides the benefit of reducing nuisance tripping, permitting the Operators to attend jobs that require more skill and time.

The current status of this project is that we have completed 400+ site installations across all of our region; the sites have been selected based upon pollution history, environmental risk and short time to spill should the site fail. The project began in 2019 with the goal for completing 550 site installations by August 2021. This project is on track to maintain the set out goal for completion.

Through the use of our embedded internal telemetry system, which communicates with our sites and assets, we have been able to gather data on the times and frequency of automatic pump resets. This data has been utilised in the form of a report, which details problematic sites and supports us to pro-actively resolve issues. The report also serves as an instrument to calculate when the automatic resets have directly led to an avoided pollution, which in turn allows us to realise our benefits for the project.

We have installed Automatic Pump Reset systems on 400+ sites to date, which return around 100 resets per week between them. In the last 3 months, we have calculated that we’ve saved 14 CAT 3 pollutions.

Alarm Transformation

Data collection and analysis are key features of management of any network. The water and wastewater industry is inherently conservative in adopting cutting edge technology – anything installed must be time-proven and well understood. But the velocity of technology change means that we might easily lag the curve of what is considered low risk.

One key area of data collection is site alarms.

With all of the above mentioned sites that Southern Water have within their region, the quantity of alarms received back through our regional control centre are vast and require a large amount of focus to pull out the highest priority to attend via our field staff.

The Alarm Transformational project aims to provide combinational logic within our sites telemetry outstations enabling our regional control centre staff to have a much clearer view on the priority alarms they receive. This will then enable them to effectively interrogate and ascertain the correct procedure for sending the required alarms out to our field staff. The current status of this project is that we have completed 80 site installations over the last year with a goal set to complete 318 by August 2021.

An internal study, which was carried out after a major storm in October 2020, indicated that across the 28 sites that had been alarm transformed, there was a 34% reduction in alarm traffic. Further analysis is ongoing, however the study has returned extremely positive figures, which when applied to the 318 sites due for completion later this year, will result in a dramatic reduction of alarms that require handling in periods of adverse weather.