The UK water industry continues to face both long-term and emerging challenges in 2022. Issues relating to water scarcity, increasing demand and aging infrastructure are not things that can be resolved at the drop of a hat. On the contrary, they are realities that have to be managed on a day to day basis, and new technology and strategies are being developed all the time to help that happen. Here, we drill down to the hot topics in today’s water industry.
Doing more with less
Water reuse is one of the biggest conversations in the industry, not just in the UK but globally. In particular, there has been a significant drive towards onsite water recycling in those parts of the US that are being hit hardest by droughts. The technology is important because it will form part of the essential infrastructure of smarter, more resilient cities in the future.
It’s currently being piloted in California in a futuristic development called Park Habitat. If it’s successful, the possibilities are profound, as replicating the technology anywhere and everywhere will be relatively straightforward. For now, the recycled water will be for non-potable purposes such as toilet flushing, but Aaron Tartakovsky, the man behind the technology, believes all that will change by 2040. He commented that the technology already exists to bring water to drinking standards. The biggest barrier is a cultural one, or as Tartakovsky puts it, the “yuck factor.”
Increased efficiency through IoT and automation
Smart water technology is yesterday’s news, in as much as it has now been rolled out to many homes and businesses. This means the industry can start to make headway with phase two, which is making meaningful use of all the data that is now available.
As is the case with any kind of big data analytics, there are numerous possibilities here. Clearer visibility of consumer habits provides the opportunity to both optimise supply and to identify patterns around demand peaks and how to manage them.
Beyond that, however, sensors throughout the network can provide faster information on leaks, and potentially, could even be used to give early warning of weaknesses, allowing for a proactive instead of reactive approach.
PFAs – time to agree actions
The topic of PFAs is another that has been hitting the headlines on both sides of the Atlantic over the past 12 months. Now there’s a sense that it’s time for decisive action. PFAs are the toxic plastic micro particles that started turning up everywhere in recent years – in oceans, in fish, in polar bears and in people.
Part of the problem is there is still so much we don’t know about PFAs. What is clear is that they exist in our drinking water, typically at levels between 5 and 15 ng/l. Professor Roger Klein is one of the UK’s leading experts on PFAs. He says that given the amount we do not know about their effects, the “safe level” of up to 100ng/l stipulated by the UK Drinking Water Inspectorate is “ridiculous” and should be slashed. This is a topic that will develop fast over the coming months.