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21 April 21

Affinity Water wins two collaborative entries in the Ofwat Innovation in Water Challenge to improve efficiency and resilience for water customers

Affinity Water has won two entries totalling £344,291 in Ofwat’s Innovation in Water Challenge – run by Nesta Challenges as part of Ofwat’s £200m Innovation Fund. The winning initiatives were produced in collaboration with other water companies, UK Universities and government agencies to improve the efficiency and resilience of its water supplies.

The two entries employ new and novel nature-based solutions to improve the resilience of existing infrastructure. The company will receive £249,791 of funding for its ‘Seagrass Seeds of Recovery’ bid and £94,500 for its ‘Smarter Tanks’ project.

Affinity Water will also contribute to the two projects from its own funds: £31,644, and £10,500 respectively.

Pauline Walsh, CEO of Affinity Water said:

“We are delighted to have succeeded in these two entries to the Innovation in Water Challenge from Ofwat and Nesta Challenges and we want to thank all of our partners for working so effectively and collaboratively with us to bring the bids together. We care passionately about delivering for our customers and for the environment and these projects enable us to try new and novel approaches to doing just that.

“Climate change and a growing demand for water are creating urgent challenges for the water sector and the more heads we put together to solve these problems the better. I congratulate Ofwat for setting up this Innovation Fund at a time when innovation must be our rallying cry.”

Claire Beloe, Climate Change and Carbon Manager, Affinity Water said:

“We are excited to lead the Seagrass Seeds of Recovery project at a time when there is more and more focus on the ecological and climate crises we are facing. This project will provide the water industry with a clear opportunity to champion a much needed diversification of nature- based activities. It fulfils a greater social purpose by facilitating the delivery of long-term multiple marine environmental benefits, with significant biodiversity net gain, water quality benefits, nutrient cycling and carbon reduction potential”.

Mumin Islam, Water Resources Planning Manager said:

“We are absolutely thrilled to be among the winners. Smarter Tanks is a really exciting project which looks to unlock ‘hidden gems’ by making the most use of existing water storage assets in a new way in order to build network resilience and pave the way for the industry to explore new solutions further.”

Jake Rigg Director of Corporate Affairs and Communities for Affinity Water said:

“We take great pride in producing these two winners from the Innovation in Water Challenge, run by Ofwat and Nesta Challenges, from a very wide and worthy field of contenders. Our strategy was to bring broad-based experienced teams together to examine possible solutions to the pressing problems the water industry faces and to come up with solutions that are truly innovative. Our aim is to improve the efficiency and resilience of our water networks for the benefit of our customers in the future while protecting the environment in the face of the pressing problems climate change presents.

“The Seagrass project uses nature itself to enhance coastal communities ecosystems, while Smarter Tanks will develop a ‘business model canvas’ to harness real-time monitoring and control solutions for existing water tanks and towers to improve efficiency when water is needed most such as during droughts.”

Mr Rigg went on to emphasise how collaborative these projects are and to say he looked forward to seeing them succeed in the future:

“With such experienced collaborative teams around us we look forward to bringing these two projects successfully to the finishing line in the future.”

John Russell, Senior Director at Ofwat, said:

“Innovation has the potential to drive a sea-change in the water sector and tackle some of the biggest challenges we are facing in society. Solutions such as this will make a real impact in the coming months and mark the beginning of a new wave of innovation in the sector.”

Chris Gorst, Director of Challenges at Nesta Challenges, commented:

“It's an important moment for the water sector, which must adapt and innovate to build a sustainable water ecosystem that benefits customers, society and the environment. We were delighted to see such strong collaboration both within and beyond the sector in response to this first Innovation in Water Challenge, and we look forward to seeing these innovations developed and adopted widely in the sector.”

Innovation in Water Challenge - Seagrass Seeds of Recovery

A £281,435 project of which £249,791 has been funded by the Innovation Fund

Affinity Water will work with Anglian Water and will be advised by Natural England, CEFAS and the Environment Agency.

As we enter the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), ‘Nature-based solutions’ (NbS) have become recognised as a key solution to addressing the problems of both a nature crisis, and a climate emergency. One such NbS is the planting and restoration of seagrass. Seagrass meadows enhance the stability of the coastal zone, locking carbon into the seabed at a rapid rate, improving water quality and creating habitat for hundreds of thousands of small animals - enhancing the resilience of coastal ecosystems.

This innovative project called Seagrass Seeds of Recovery, will provide a blueprint for upscaling the restoration of seagrass to enhance the resilience of the estuarine and coastal waters of the Affinity Water and Anglian Water supply regions in Essex and Suffolk.

Recent estimates suggest that seagrass loss in the UK maybe as high as 92%. In the Essex and Suffolk areas we know that thousands of hectares of seagrass have been lost. Restoration of seagrass will help to support the UK Government’s 25-year Environment Plan. With water quality having improved, thanks in part to the efforts of Anglian Water, conditions are right in some areas for the restoration of seagrass to begin.

A consortium of ten partner organisations has been created to deliver this project with Project Seagrass as the main delivery partner.

Innovation in Water Challenge – Smarter Tanks

A £105,000 project of which £94,500 has been funded by the Innovation Fund.

Working in collaboration with the University of Exeter, Aqua Civils and technical consultants Affinity Water proposes to develop a ‘business model canvas’ for drinking water and rainwater storage tanks to harness real-time monitoring AND control solutions to explore optimised strategies for real-time top-up control.

Historically, decentralised water tanks, such as feeding tower blocks and rainwater harvesting tanks, automatically fill with mains water during peak water usage periods. In extended dry spells, rainwater harvesting systems fail to reduce demand on the potable network when they are most needed.

The trial itself represents a first in the UK for two novel Industry 4.0 (I4) applications using Smart demand management for existing drinking water and rainwater storage systems. We have focussed the design of this proposal to target Operational System Resilience and Open Data themes.

The outcome of this trial will quantify the scale of the opportunity to implement smart water tank control at existing customer assets to build operational resilience and reduce disruption to customers.

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