United Utilities installs largest ever intelligent membrane

United Utilities is carrying out its largest ever roofing job on a service reservoir in Bury.

The water company is giving the 50-year-old structure a full MOT and sealing the roof with a hi-tech membrane. 

The project at Woodgate Hill service reservoir is designed to stop rainwater or run-off from getting into the tank, and if the roof was ever to leak, a grid of electrical wires will be able to pinpoint the precise location and send a signal to the company’s Warrington headquarters.

And that’s a very useful feature indeed with a roof that is the size of two Ethiad Stadium pitches.

The concrete tank is set into the hillside and can hold 272 million litres of water ­– enough to fill more than 100 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The 47,000 square metre surface area of the roof was covered with 28,000 tonnes of earth. Engineers have already stripped back the soil and cleaned and sealed the joints in the concrete roof panels.

The multi-layer intelligent membrane is then installed section at a time and welded together, and the vast mesh-like lattice of wires is connected to a series of electrical kiosks linked to the company’s 24-hour control room.

Senior project manager, Connell O’Donnell explained: “This is all about improving the resilience of water supplies and ensuring that the structure can continue to serve customers well for another fifty years.

“It’s a very manual process because we can’t use any heavy machinery on top of the membrane once it is laid.  That’s why we are using an army of workers and a fleet of around 56 wheelbarrows to spread 14,000 tonnes of gravel on top of the membrane.

“When we have finished the roof we’ll be giving the inside of the structure a good clean before it is put back into service later this year.”

The project is part of United Utilities’ £3.5bn investment in the North West’s water and wastewater services between 2015 and 2020. The investment programme supports some 17,500 jobs and injects around £9bn into the regional economy.