You need a strong stomach to work with sewage and women are proving they’re just as tough as their male colleagues at the North West’s regional water firm.

To celebrate International Women in Engineering Day, United Utilities has named four of its own female engineers and four women engineers from partner/supplier firms who were instrumental in introducing a ground-breaking technology to treat wastewater.

Nereda® is an award-winning aerobic granular sludge technology that has significantly reduced the company’s investment costs to treat sewage, reduced its reliance on chemicals for phosphorus removal and at the same time improved the firm’s carbon footprint.

Working together the eight women engineers were fundamental to the successful introduction of this emerging technology in an industry that is often resistant to change.

United Utilities’ chief innovation engineer, Lisa Mansell led the company’s evaluation of the new technology and convinced stakeholders to take on what was seen as a more risky solution.

Joanne Rands, head of process delivery in engineering at United Utilities, used her problem-solving and influencing skills to smooth the path of this implementation during many challenges.

Process engineer at United Utilities, Rebecca Shields, was instrumental in commissioning the technology for use at wastewater treatment works in Morecambe and Failsworth and was on the United Utilities’ graduate scheme at the time. She has worked closely with her colleague Emma Brabazon lead process engineer on the Blackburn and Westnewton Nereda schemes, who endeavoured to learn the lessons on earlier schemes to improve our understanding and delivery of Nereda solutions.

Elizabeth Fox, worked at United Utilities as a process engineer putting the pilot plant through its paces and then went on to commission the Morecambe Nereda plant in a new role at Construction Delivery Partner, C2V+.

Wanda Koczula, Senior Process Engineer from Nereda technology supplier Royal HaskoningDHV, was involved in Kendal and Morecambe designs, and was fundamental to project start-up and operations.

She worked alongside her colleagues Cristina Cominelli and Saskia Moll, who worked on the software and assessed the suitability of the batch recipes which ensure the process is treating the wastewater effectively and efficiently.

The hard work of these pioneering women engineers meant that the technology was successfully introduced at five of United Utilities’ wastewater treatment works ranging from the largest new build Nereda plant in Europe at Blackburn wastewater treatment works to the world’s first Nereda package plant at Westnewton.

Lisa Mansell comments: “It’s really important to show the great work that many female engineers are responsible for in our society and to showcase the work we do to inspire the younger generation. Many girls in school don’t see a career for themselves in engineering due to it still being a heavily male dominated sector but it does make for a really rewarding career.

“It’s also fantastic to share the career progression opportunities in engineering too. Rebecca Shields, a graduate process engineer, came with enthusiasm to take on the new opportunity, a keenness to learn and has now moved into her full role as a process engineer bringing a wealth of knowledge not only of Nereda but on the wider complexities of implementing innovations at full scale.

“Find what you are passionate about and believe in yourself! Often women don’t apply for roles if they don’t think they will get them or that they don’t tick all the boxes. It took a really great mentor for me to see what I could achieve and for me to stop holding myself back from opportunities,” she added.

The world’s largest network of water leak loggers using powerful Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity is taking shape in the North West.

United Utilities will install 24,000 NB of the IoT acoustic devices as part of an ongoing £30m rollout of loggers which started in 2019.

The new loggers join a growing arsenal of innovative ideas United Utilities are using in the battle to reduce leakage, including satellite technology, AI and specially trained water sniffer dogs.

The company has pledged to reduce leakage by a fifth by 2025.

Narrow band internet of things, or NB IoT, has a great advantage over the standard 2G technology  used by most acoustic loggers because its bandwidth allows lots of data to be uploaded quickly,” explained leakage technical manager Paul Parr.

In the past, we have occasionally struggled with connectivity from loggers which are housed underground inside chambers with thick metal lids and underneath parked cars. We can lose vital time if there’s a leak, because we only receive the data once a day.

“The NB IoT loggers means we can guarantee we get the data when we need it. In early trials the technology kept our loggers 100% connected, which is a massive step change.”

The new loggers make United Utilities’ programme of logger investment world-beating for a second time. As well as having the largest estate of NB IoT loggers on the planet, by the time the programme ends in 2021 United Utilities will have installed 100,000 acoustic loggers in total – more than any other company globally.

The current phase of work to install the NB IoT loggers starts in October and is due to be completed in April.

Yorkshire Water and partners are nearing completion of the deployment of almost 4000 acoustic, flow, pressure and water quality monitors in what is the UK’s largest smart water network pilot.

Final installations of the latest NB-IoT (Narrow Band Internet of Things) pilot technology are underway, thanks to the BT, Yorkshire Water and Stantec collaboration, after BT switched on its first upgraded masts in the UK, as part of the project.

If the pilot is successful, the smart water network will revolutionise the way leaks and interruptions to supply are managed in the future.

The project will utilise state-of-the-art technologies and BT’s NB-IoT network, which was brought to the area as part of this initiative. BT’s NB-IoT solution has the potential to deliver significant improvements in data quality and battery life, enabling Yorkshire Water to identify and prevent leaks and network incidents more accurately than ever before.

The Smart Water Network Pilot will integrate the rich data from multiple new and existing sources and present it in a single visualisation platform which will include a digital twin of the water network. The platform will use AI to cluster data sets, and remove false positives, to accurately inform asset and operational decision making.

Yorkshire Water’s chief strategy and regulation officer, Nevil Muncaster, said: “We recognise that on top of our commitments to our customers and the environment, we need to play our part in regional development where we can – perhaps even more so than ever in these challenging times.

“It’s great that through this innovative pilot we’ve been able to accelerate the introduction of NB-IoT to the area in Sheffield. NB-IoT has the potential to provide greater access for local businesses to take advantage of the advancement in IoT technology, which can only be a good thing for economic growth within the region.”

As part of the Smart Water Network Pilot, Gutermann acoustic loggers, Technolog pressure loggers and Honeywell flow meters will utilise the NB-IoT network to transmit their data.

Sarah Walker, director for BT’s Enterprise business in the North of England said this partnership marked an exciting milestone for the company. “The pilot deployment of NB-IoT signals a move to a more data driven world enabling millions of connected devices to send and receive data, transforming the way we live and work in the future.”

“We are continually looking at how we deliver innovative and next generation connectivity for our customers. We already offer our customers UK’s biggest and fastest mobile network, and we were first to the market with 5G in the UK. Partnering with Yorkshire Water on the Smart Water Network Pilot and enabling our NB-IoT network for the first time reinforces our commitment to lean into and embrace all network technologies to support these exciting trials with data driven outcomes.”

Yorkshire Water’s multi-stakeholder collaboration includes Itron, Sensus, Arqiva, HWM, ATi, Inflowmatix, Syrinix, Invenio, Ovarro (formerly Primayer & Servelec Technologies), Temetra, Technolog, Gutermann, Elster (Honeywell), BT, Stantec and Xylem

For more information on Yorkshire Water’s innovation projects, please visit:

Water regulators and government bodies from across the North East have visited Northumbrian Water this week, to find out how it plans to ensure a top quality supply of water into the future.

The half-day Water Quality Liaison Event, which is hosted annually by the region’s water firm took place at its Pity Me Head Office in County Durham on Wednesday March 4, 2020.

More than 30 people attended, representing national regulators such as the Drinking Water Inspectorate, as well as Environmental Health Departments from nine local authorities across the region.

This year, the event was focused on innovation, where attendees learned about Northumbrian Water’s Innovation Festival, a five-day extravaganza which aims to change the way the company operates for the benefits of its customers and the environment.

The company showcased ideas that have come from the festival, including the way it’s using new advances in technology, such as digital twin technology, for better water quality management.

Attendees also discussed Northumbrian Water’s current traditional water quality projects, including its work to build two new ultra-modern water treatment works in Berwick and Wooler, Nothumberland.

Northumbrian Water’s Head of Water Quality, Alan Brown, said: “We’re committed to delivering clean water that tastes good to all of our customers, right the way through from source to tap.

“That means continually improving the way we work and applying innovation to transform the level of insight we have into our network’s operations and drive improvements for our customers.

“We hold this event every year to talk to our regulators about what we’re doing at each step of the way and to ensure we are providing excellent tap water quality by working in partnership with them.”

On Wednesday 28th August 2019, emergency water supplier, Water Direct hosted the official opening of its newest depot in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, following a £1 million investment.

Water Direct has invested in the 1,231m² (13,250ft²) Mansfield site which is designed to augment its offering across the Midlands and North of England.

The addition of this central location creates a further base of operations for the company allowing even greater ability to respond to increasing client demands nationwide.

The launch day saw invited guests and stakeholders, including colleagues from a number of the country’s water utility companies, enjoy a tour of the site and demonstration of the company’s equipment and services. The group was treated to a champagne lunch and official ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by the Water Direct team.

Oliver Silcock, Head of Operations at Water Direct, hosted a ‘show-and-tell’ which highlighted some of the company’s unique solutions, including its state-of-the-art, dedicated drinking water tankers. Guests were shown the unique features of the vehicles which enable bulk water deliveries nationwide and feature unique pumping equipment designed to facilitate safe network injections. A technique that Water Direct has pioneered over many years as an innovative means to provide surrogate supply during an interruption on both a planned and emergency basis.

Oliver explained how the vehicles are equipped with specialist pumps that inject water directly into the mains network at a pre-defined pressure and flow rate. Once programmed with the desired parameters, the system will read the pressure and flow rates and automatically adjust accordingly.

Guests were also given the chance to explore other solutions first-hand such as static drinking water tanks, and the deployment of Arlington boxes and bottled water as emergency measures.

Water Direct Senior Contract Manager Rob Allan talked in detail with the assembled guests about the company’s wholesaler contract services, including emergency support through the Nationwide Bottled Water Bank and innovative ideas developed in partnership with water wholesaler partners such as doorstep deliveries to vulnerable customers and ‘emergency pod’ deployments. These ‘pop-up’ stations are delivered to site as part of larger scale bottled water deployments and serve as visible bottled water handout stations, helping on-site staff to manage bottled water collection points and safely manage traffic and pedestrians.

Rob also explained in detail how Water Direct is committed to helping water companies towards their challenging targets to reduce leakage and supply interruption time, alongside improving customer experience going into the industry’s AMP7 investment program.

Con Canny, Network Manager at Affinity Water who was in attendance, said “Water Direct’s innovation demonstration and tour were most informative, it is reassuring for us to know that we are working with such a capable company.”

Rhys Addison, Alternative Supplies Technician at Severn Trent Water added “I was glad to be part of the opening of Water Direct’s brand new depot in Mansfield. It was an amazing opportunity to see what the future of Water Direct looks like and seeing how their innovative ideas have come to life.”

Alongside emergency work, with its excellent access routes the Mansfield base will further improve Water Direct’s ability to assist water companies with ongoing programs of general maintenance to the network and new equipment installation as well as serving other sectors such as construction and events which also form part of the company’s key markets.

Jonathan West, Managing Director at Water Direct said, “While the site has been operational since May, we really wanted to celebrate the official opening with further chance to show demonstrate our capability.”

“This official opening day follows a program of partner engagement sessions across our key locations which have proven to be very successful. We’re more than happy to host our customers and partners to talk about how we strengthen our relationships and find innovative ways to work together.”


Yorkshire Water announces today (July 15) that Richard Flint is to retire as chief executive with effect from September 12 and that he will be succeeded in that role by Liz Barber who is currently the company’s chief financial officer. 

Richard has been with the company since 1992 and first joined the board in 2003 as director of the water business unit. He was appointed as chief operating officer in 2008 and became chief executive in 2010.

Liz Barber has been chief financial officer since 2010, having joined the company from Ernst & Young where she held a number of senior partner roles. Liz is also a lay member and trustee of the University of Leeds and is a non-executive director and chair of the audit committee at KCOM Group PLC. Liz is also a member of HRH Prince Charles’ Accounting for Sustainability network of CFOs, which she chaired for two years.

Anthony Rabin, chairman of Yorkshire Water, commented; “I would like to thank Richard for his exceptional leadership of the company over the last nine years and wish him the very best for the future. Richard has been pivotal in guiding the business through a period of very significant change during his tenure and leaves the company well prepared to deliver in the future. I would also like to particularly thank Richard for his assistance in ensuring a smooth transition to his successor.
“I am delighted that Liz has agreed to take over as CEO, following an open recruitment process through which Liz was the outstanding candidate. She has already made a major contribution to the company in her current role and most recently has led the company’s long term strategy development and its business transformation programme. She has also been central to Yorkshire Water’s work to make our finances more transparent by, for example, the removal of our previous offshore structures.”

Commenting on the announcement Richard Flint said; “As the end of my second five-year price cycle as group CEO comes to a close I believe now is the right time in the regulatory calendar to step down. It’s been a huge honour to serve as CEO for nearly 10 years and after 27 years with the company I wish all our great colleagues, board members and customers the very best for the future.” 

Liz Barber said; “It’s a great privilege to be given the job of leading Yorkshire Water. We have an excellent business plan for the next five years and we need to ensure that delivers all it can for our customers and the environment. We have a major part to play in responding to climate change, both by reducing our own carbon impact, and also in changing our operations to deal with its consequences.
“We are central to the fabric of Yorkshire and I am committed to ensuring that we play a full part to contribute to the inclusive growth of the county.” 

United Utilities is rolling out the biggest “listening” project of its kind in the world in a bid to tackle water leakage.

The North West water company is installing around 100,000 ‘acoustic’ loggers over the next two years on its underground water supply network.

The vast pipe system – more than 26,000 miles in length – would wrap around the world if the pipes were laid end to end.

Kevin Fowlie is United Utilities’ Network Delivery Director and he said it was a massive undertaking which underlines the company’s commitment to reducing water leakage: “We have one of the largest and oldest water supply networks in the UK and it’s a constant battle to keep on top of leaks. Many leaks never show on the surface, so it is a round-the-clock challenge to find and fix them.

“Following the extreme dry weather last year we’ve seen leakage rates increase due to ground movement.  We have doubled our leakage detection and repair resource to meet our leakage targets, and now we need to go even further.  Our customers have told us it is one of the issues most important to them, so we have committed to a 20 per cent reduction in leakage over the coming five year investment period, and that means using the latest innovations. 

By 2020 we will have the largest estate of acoustic logger technology in the world. Every quarter of a mile on our water network we will be able to glean real-time data, allowing us to respond faster and more accurately when a pipe begins to leak.”

An acoustic logger is a small device that would fit in the palm of a hand, installed directly onto the fittings of a water pipe. The loggers “listen” for the characteristic noise waves that are transferred through pipe walls by a leak, and upon detection of the sound they send an alarm to United Utilities’ integrated control centre.  Analysts can then send an engineer to pinpoint the leak and raise work for it to be repaired.

Engineers carried out a trial of the technology last year when 2,000 loggers were installed in Liverpool and Manchester city centres. These are already thought to have saved up to 5 million litres of water a day.

In Phase 1 of the project this summer 44,000 loggers will be installed across the North West at a cost of £14 million. A second phase of 50,000 loggers are in the pipeline for 2020 – a massive investment worth around £30 million in total.

The new loggers will join a growing arsenal of innovative ideas employed by United Utilities in the battle to reduce leakage, including satellite technology and specially trained water sniffer dogs.

At FT Pipeline Systems we pride ourselves on our high level of customer service and the attention to detail we offer our clients.

Our areas of expertise include coated and lined steel water pipes, stop tap box locking replacement lids, dual contained chemical dosing hose, and gas pressure reducing systems.

We are accredited to ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001.

Chairman Duncan Frazer said, “Having been in this industry for over 30 years, we have worked with many of the water companies and contractors that are located in the Northern Area and very much look forward to taking part in the upcoming events organised by the Institute of Water. We are delighted to come on board as a gold level sponsor this year.”

Northumbrian Water’s Innovation Festival is set to return to the region this summer and they’re bringing some HUGE global names along with them for the ride.

The north-east water company has teamed up with some of the most influential and innovative organisations from right across the globe to host the five day extravaganza in Newcastle again this July.

Between the 8th to the 12th more than 3,000 people are expected to flood through the gates of Newcastle racecourse to take part in a series of sprints, challenges and quests alongside the likes of confirmed partners Microsoft, IBM, CGI, Ford, Wavin, O2, Reece, Aiimi, Wipro Topcoder, and the Institute of Civil Engineers.

Each partner will be heading up their own unique challenge and leading their sprint teams in five action packed days of learning, creating, sharing and innovation.

The teams will be made up of industry experts, academics, scientists, engineers, students and members of the public who will work together to come up with solutions to tackle major social and environmental challenges.

Sprints will begin on the Monday, where delegates will scope and unpack the nature of each problem and work through the week to develop key ideas, and create working prototypes of their ideas and innovations, that will be presented back at the end of the week.

This year’s festival will see 12 ‘sprints’ and two data ‘hacks,’ all focusing on key issues and challenges such as;
– The impact climate change will have on our communities
– The changes 5G networks will make to our lives
– Exploring the vehicles of the future
– Connecting local and rural communities through food and technology

Ordnance Survey will return for the third year to explore the next steps for taking the underground mapping of pipes and cables project even further, following the recent multimillion pound backing from the Government’s Geospatial Commission to carry out a pilot project in the North East.

Newcastle University are also coming back to the festival to build on the work done last year on the ‘Digital Twins’ project, where a virtual model of the real world is currently being created to help with incident management.

Other partners taking part include Northumbrian Water’s supply partners Esh-Stantec, Wood, Interserve, Mott Macdonald Bentley and Integrated Water Services.

Nigel Watson, Northumbrian Water’s Information Services Director, said: “Things are really starting to ramp up and we’re all very excited about this year’s festival, which is set to be our most ambitious year yet.

The appetite to get involved with the festival has been huge, which I think is driven by the fact that we are delivering on some of the ideas that the past events have generated.

Just this week we’ve seen Ordnance Survey and the multi mullion pound government investment in the Underground Mapping project in the national news. The idea came from our first festival and shows that what is happening here is having a real impact on the rest of the world and making a real difference to peoples’ lives.

The festival is a game changer, harnessing the collective brain power of a really diverse group of people, all helping us with our ambition to be innovation leaders and this year’s event is all about driving performance, taking ideas and making them real and producing innovations that will help change the world…and we can’t wait to get started.”

Photo Neil Denham

Northumbrian Water is expecting thousands of people to its Innovation Festival, from business and organisations around the world, as well as around 1,000 North East schoolchildren who will be taking part in various Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths (STEAM) activities.

The Festival will also see businesses showcasing their latest innovations and inventions including driverless cars, virtual and augmented reality software, smart devices and much, much, more.

For the latest news and information on the festival visit

Six thousand massive pipes, 100km of engineering and some of the tightest roads in the country –connecting west Cumbria to its new Lake District water supply on time is like a military operation.

That’s where ex-Army non-commissioned officer (NCO) Neil Bambridge comes in.

With a cool head and precision planning, Neil and his team of pipe road truckers have so far successfully squeezed 1,146 heavy truckloads along mile after mile of Cumbria’s most tortuous unclassified roads – and earned praise from communities along the route.

With just 135 loads left to deliver, it’s been one of the toughest, most critical jobs on United Utilities £300m new West Cumbria Supplies Project, says project director John Hilton.
At 14m long and up to almost a metre in diameter, each section of spiral-welded steel pipe needs to be ready and waiting in a nearby designated area at exactly the moment pipe-laying teams need them.

Sounds easy. The pipe sections have already made the 1,633 mile journey by sea from a factory at Lorca in Spain by the time they reach Workington docks. But it’s the last 30 to 50 kilometres where things get really tricky.

“Cumbria is known for its wide and expansive rural landscape, not wide and expansive roads. Getting tonnes of pipes along narrow backroads, with high hedges, blind bends and through ancient villages built when the widest load was a horse and cart was identified as one of the project’s biggest risks when we were planning how to build it,” explained John.

“Some of the pipe lay-down areas we are working from are pretty remote so hauling trucks through communities without causing damage or unacceptable disruption for communities was a key objective. With the bulk of this work now done, we’ve nothing but praise for the way Neil and his team have handled it.”

The key was in the planning. Although the lorries were not outsized by normal standards, compared to Cumbria’s back roads they were effectively a moving road block to any other road user.

Neil and his team avoided any formal long-running road closures, instead managing largely with a system of rolling 15-minute temporary closures using ‘stop and go’ boards with Neil in a pilot vehicle to look out and guide people emerging unexpectedly from farm and field entrances.

Neil, a former non-commissioned officer (NCO) in the Royal Welsh, who works for the pipeline contractor Farrans Roadbridge Joint Venture, said: “My logistics team is also made up of ex-military personnel plus local traffic management teams who I know I can rely on to get things done. They’re dedicated, disciplined, and the military culture of planning, rehearsals and drilling helped prevent problems.

“I talk them through the routes and we drive together along them in advance identifying every possible passing point. Then I do a dry run the morning of the delivery to make sure nothing has changed before we set off.

“Another thing that really helped was that, before any lorries went anywhere, I went and visited each area to introduce myself and the work we are doing. They have been very supportive and we have had not one complaint about haulage.”

The £300m West Cumbria Water Supplies project is the largest current inland pipeline project in the UK and will bring more reliable and sustainable water supplies into Allerdale and Copeland.

The scheme will link the area to Thirlmere Reservoir, and involves the construction of 100km of new pipeline, a new water treatment plant at Williamsgate, two new pumping stations and two new underground service reservoirs. The project started in spring 2017 and will be completed by 2022.