Ofwat reveals Water Breakthrough Challenge winners

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Ofwat, the water regulator for England and Wales, has awarded funding to the winners of the second Water Breakthrough Challenge, called the Transform Stream, which focused on ‘large-scale, long-term, game-changing innovations.’

The winners include innovative projects that reduce leakage, improve household water efficiency and turn carbon dioxide into useful products like paint and fertiliser.

John Russell, Senior Director, Strategy, Finance and Infrastructure at Ofwat commented on the announcement:  “It’s crucial for the water sector to come up with new, innovative ideas to fix the challenges that the sector – and society – faces. (–)

“Ofwat’s Innovation Fund, which provides the prize money for these competitions, exists to help stimulate new and bold initiatives by water companies working in partnership with universities, charities, engineering practices and technology firms.

“We have much to learn from other sectors and the winners of this round of the competition showcase just how much can be achieved when we collaborate.”

The winners of the Transform Stream of the Water Breakthrough Challenge include:

  • National Leakage Research and Test Centre (NLRTC) – Northumbrian Water will create a national centre to test new products to combat leakage under “real life” conditions, improving safety and effectiveness so that they can be rolled out faster and at a larger scale.
  • Managing Background Leakage – a group of water companies led by Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water will help develop new technologies to detect the many leaks that are currently missed by existing investigative methods through forensic investigations of 25 areas, deploying flow, pressure and temperature sensors at an intensity never previously undertaken.
  • Enabling Smart Water Communities – a group of water companies, universities, home builders and local authorities will work together to ensure that the 4 million new homes planned by 2041 can be integrated into the water system in a sustainable way, ensuring new communities have continued access to finite water resources, wastewater is managed, and flood risks are mitigated.
  • CECCU (CHP Exhaust Carbon Capture and Utilisation) – a project to turn captured carbon into useful products like paint and fertiliser, saving 5 million tonnes of CO2 per year and making the Combined Heat and Power (CHP) process – where heat as a byproduct of energy generated is captured and used – carbon neutral.

More information about the winners about the winners and Ofwat’s innovation fund is available on the Water Innovation Challenges website.

Sharon Darcy, Director of Sustainability First and Chair of the judging panel for the Transform Stream, added: “Though many will think of net zero as an issue for power companies, the water sector consumes 2-3% of electricity generated in the UK.

“Novel solutions that bear down on greenhouse gas emissions like CECCU and mainstreaming approaches like Enabling Smart Water Communities that help to manage and reduce demand for water can go a long way to helping the sector reach its net zero targets for the good of everyone.”

Transform Stream is a part of a series of innovation competitions made possible by Ofwat’s £200m Water Innovation Fund and delivered by Nesta Challenges, Arup and Isle Utilities.

Ofwat recently opened a consultation into the future direction of the Water Breakthrough Challenges and the Water Innovation Fund.