Technical Sales Director R2M
Non-revenue water in the UK: How is the water infrastructure organized? What damage does NRW cause and what solutions do we offer? We wanted to know this and much more and asked Will Garrod of the Hawle subsidiary R2M in the UK for an interview:
How is the water infrastructure structured in the UK?
The UK is split into 24 licensed water companies who run monopolized territorial networks. These are overseen by the government regulatory body named OFWAT who limit, target, fine and reward on spending and performance. This control is largely set out in the 5-year AMP cycle (Asset Management Plan) which is currently in AMP7 (April 2020-March 2025). The UK network dates back to Victorian times and very often pipes have been in the ground for decades. Leakage reduction, among many others, is a big target of this AMP, with official figures of around 21% of water being lost at the moment while the demand for water increases. The expectation is a 16% leakage reduction which will mean utilities have to adopt new methods and technology to ensure customers will not experience higher costs while still hitting the leakage target.
What are the major challenges regarding non-revenue water from R2M's point of view?
Non-revenue water in the UK, the majority of which is lost via leakage, represents a major opportunity to R2M and is part of a main strategy to market the R2M Always On product range including live repair products to assist in repairing leaks in the most efficient way. The main challenge is to convert existing methods, which mostly require depressurization, into new and innovative solutions. Having to turn the water off for customers is almost always more expensive, disrupts customers’ supplies and provokes ongoing leaks in the system. This leads to the so-called Customer Minutes Lost penalty payment, where after a certain time high fines are imposed on the utilities for shutting off the water for customers. The goal is to keep a shutdown, if at all necessary, to the minimum.
R2M stands for rapid service - how often are you called out for "leak detection"?
We never get called out for leak detection, as the water companies invest millions to detect leakage through zone metering, acoustic listening, ground hotspots detected by drones, sniffer dogs, chlorine detection systems and many other forms of leak detection. We do however get called out for fixing leaks, e.g. when pipe joints, flanges or pipes in general are leaking or a live insertion valve is needed to, e.g. decrease the effects of a shutoff because less properties will be affected. Our 24/7 365 days-a-year emergency line does not only make sure you get the right product, but in conjunction with R2M Site Services, we offer the installation service as well if needed.
What methods are used for leak detection?
Zone metering, acoustic listening, ground hotspots detected by drones, sniffer dogs, chlorine detection systems and many other forms of leak detection.
What damages, caused by leaks, do you find on site?
Damages of leaks are quite often not fully visible on the outside. Generally, normal property damage by water and flooding which is typically subsidence or road damage are the most common ones. However, this can lead to traffic congestion, damage caused by the excavation during the repair itself, business interruption and damage to reputation which can get very costly.
What damage does NRW cause due to low-quality products?
As explained before, UK water companies are targeted and heavily fined for exceeding levels of leakage, customer disconnections during repairs and many other measures where leaks can be attributed to low-quality products. This is a major drive and campaign used by R2M and other manufacturers to promote better-quality products to limit the high cost of NRW. At the same time, the target is to decrease expenditure which is hard to achieve simultaneously. In recent AMP periods, a focus on TOTEX (Total Expenditure) and moving away from focusing solely on CAPEX (Capital Expenditure) has been observed. This is what the R2M Always On range targets, products that help to reduce TOTEX due to larger tolerances, easy and fast installation, and availability off the shelf.
What solutions does R2M offer / what products are used for leaks?
R2M’s Always On range includes encapsulation collars, connectable repair clamps, live inserted valves, valve devices for jammed and poor-condition valves and many other products that enable live repair. Complimentary to this are end restraint fittings enabling fast repair in cases where depressurization is necessary as well as many other products supplied my R2M on a daily basis. R2M’s product range also includes innovation in areas where customers have highlighted specific demand for a solution meaning the innovations often sell well once perfected with the main challenge being to develop the product capable of solving the problem.
Are illegal extractions widespread in the UK? Where and how can they be prevented?
Yes, illegal extraction is common, and OFWAT targets are set to reduce this for all licensed water companies. They are commonly detected by the zone metering, acoustic listening systems already in place.
Hawle has been producing high-quality valves and pipe connections for water supply for over 70 years. This vast experience and the highest quality make our company a reliable partner for water supply companies worldwide.