United Utilities unveils plans to transform its wastewater network monitoring

Maintaining a network of 78,000 kilometres of wastewater pipes, the equivalent of four flights from Manchester to Sydney, a growing population and the impacts of climate change, has meant the demands on United Utilities infrastructure has never been more challenging.

This has led the company to overhaul its approach on how it manages its vast sewer network, by introducing a new innovative approach, which will use real-time data, and the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to process data to help identify issues such as blockages and the rise of water in the sewer networks, quickly, so proactive action can be taken before they impact customers or the environment.

Known within the company as  Dynamic Network Management, or DNM, the approach has been created to help United Utilities manage the wastewater networks and the challenges they bring, in a much more proactive way.

Mike Wood, Water and Wastewater Network Director from United Utilities said, “Due to the vast nature of the wastewater network,  we often don’t know that there is an issue until it is experienced first-hand by our customers. This is something we want to change.

“Our aim is to move away from the traditional reactive approach and to address problems proactively as much as possible, to ensure that we are managing the network, not the other way around!
“We want visibility as to what is happening on our wastewater network and when, so we can detect and prevent any unnecessary issues before they become a problem for customers or the environment.”

This pioneering approach will be supported by the installation of over 19,000 sensors in manholes across the North West region and will include enhancements to the company’s monitoring at both powered and non-powered sites. 

The data captured will be sent back to  a unique digital platform that has been designed specifically for United Utilities, using artificial intelligence and machine learning to process the information to identify  patterns in the performance of the company’s drainage systems, helping to predict the future performance.

The project is underway and the company will be responding to the alerts from the new digital platform and developing the new ways of working.

“This is a really exciting time. The project is now moving at a rapid pace and our aim is to have all the sensors installed in 2022”, added Mike.