Can we eliminate spills and pollutions forever?

Date: 26/05/23 | In: Articles, Sewer Network Monitoring

The Government and UK water companies are now firmly under fire from members of the public and environmentalists following continued concern over the quality of the country’s rivers and beaches.

According to recent figures from the Environment Agency, a total of 301,091 sewage spills were recorded in 2022. That’s an average of 824 spills every day. In light of these figures, water company bosses last week apologised for repeated sewage spills pledging to invest £10bn over the next ten years to cut the number of pollutions by 140,000 each year by 2030.

In order to further inform policy and legislation with a view to enabling water companies to eliminate spills and pollutions forever, our commercial director, Dave Walker met with his local MP. Lee Rowley, MP for North Derbyshire, contacted us in a bid to find out what monitoring experts such as Detectronic might do to support this industry-wide effort. Over to Dave.

“We welcomed Lee’s proactive approach to this highly contentious and emotive issue and, of course, have a number of proposals of our own which I was very happy to share.

“Storm overflows, which include Combined Sewage Overflows (CSOs), are something we have been helping water companies to manage and predict via Smart Network monitoring for several years. As such, Lee and I were able to discuss the storm overflows performance commitment definition for the 2024 price review in depth.

“We disagree with the Government’s proposals to set a performance commitment based on average spills with financial consequences for companies that don’t meet their targets. Why? Because we feel that the performance commitment should be based on the total number of spills not on an average. This somewhat dilutes the issue in our opinion since using an average of total CSOs essentially weakens the spirit of the performance criteria.

“The Government’s proposed approach to unmonitored storm overflows is also flawed. We believe that all storm overflows should be monitored. Their approach assumes a level of spills for any storm overflows that do not have a monitor installed or that are only monitored on an ad hoc basis. Our reasoning for suggesting that all storm overflows should be monitored is based on our knowledge and experience that the TOTEX cost for implementing and managing these monitors is very low. We have proven that with various network monitoring schemes we have designed and installed for several UK water companies.

“Conversely, it is proposed that all emergency overflows should be monitored, a measure we certainly agree with. As such, we reiterated that every storm overflow should be monitored in order to provide complete transparency and end the reliance on this environmentally harmful practice.

“Lee was interested to understand exactly how smart network monitoring works, so I showed him several projects that we are currently delivering and highlighted the various equipment we have developed specifically for this purpose. He was particularly interested to hear how we had gained a patent for our LIDoTT technology and to discover that it offers a highly versatile and cost-effective solution that can quickly be deployed either in specific catchments or throughout an entire network.

“We concluded our meeting by stating that we firmly believe that water companies should be mandated to report quarterly as per a company’s financial reporting structure i.e. a set of quarterly management accounts provides a company with data to see how it is performing, therefore allowing for it to improve over the year. Annual reporting is simply too late, and often too far after the event to be of any valuable insight when it comes to reducing spills and pollutions.

“Our ultimate industry objective should be to eliminate spills and pollutions forever; and I’m certain that this is feasible. By joining forces, increasing investment, knowledge sharing, implementing smart network monitoring as standard and setting robust parameters that leave zero wiggle room, we should all be held to account until the issue is solved. If this doesn’t happen, our rivers and beaches will only continue to decline.”