The work undertaken by distribution operatives, quite literally the water industry’s men in the street, goes pretty much unheralded. Once or twice a year, however, the skills of these knights of the network take centre stage in what usually becomes the busiest, noisiest, certainly the most animated corner of water industry exhibitions – the IWO Drilling and Tapping competition.

The event, first held in the UK at Watertec in 1989, was instigated to give the distribution teams a competitive forum for demonstrating their expertise, and a chance for them to get involved in the industry’s national events.

The competition is a time trial in which teams of two, one member of which must work for a water company or water contractor, race to drill and tap a pressure pipe and install a simulated service connection.

Next year, national and international teams will be taking to the floor once again to compete for the Tyco Trophy. The competition will be held at IWEX 2007, part of the Sustainability Live! event which also includes ET, ICU and NEMEX. Sustainability Live! will be held at Birmingham’s NEC from May 1-3, 2007.

Speed, skill and dexterity are prime requisites for drilling and tapping champions, but equally vital is the ability to maintain the highest standards of workmanship. Leaks, poor joints and health and safety violations will all incur penalty points which can easily consign the fastest tap to runner-up status.

Each team member has a distinct role, but it is important they act in concert. One

member straddles a 150mm ductile iron main, pressurised to 70-100psi, in order to execute the drill and tap; the other assembles a mock-up service connection, complete with service tap. The two are brought together and water flows, hopefully through the service tap only.

Tapping the main is undertaken using a combined Hy-Ram drilling and tapping machine, incorporating a 25mm ferrule to facilitate the connection.

The machine is attached to the pipe to make a water-tight seal, then cranked by hand to drill and tap the ductile main. The drill bit is then reversed and the machine cylinder rotated through 180°. This allows the 25mm ferrule with a ‘Halwe’ 25mm push fit joint to be inserted.

Once the ferrule is safely in-situ the drilling and tapping machine is removed.

By this stage the other member of the team should have completed the assembly of the boundary box and service connection and the main and service connection are hooked up via a 25mm MDPE pipe.

The connection is adjudged to be complete, and the stopwatch stops running, once water discharges from the service tap. Once the clock has stopped the quality of the work is assessed.

The Judges’ Report carries a maximum of 29 30-second time penalties, which are imposed for infringements such as failures to observe health and safety procedures and improper use of tools. The Judge’s Report also covers the quality of each of the 17 joints made during the trial.

For each joint which fails to make the grade a penalty is incurred. A prize is awarded for a ‘quality tap’, where there are no penalties .

Fast times

The first UK drilling and tapping competition attracted 26 teams and was won by a duo from North Surrey Water Company with a time of 6mins 42secs. Since then the number of teams entering may have fluctuated but performance of competitors has increased steadily – contrast North Surrey’s 1989 time with the 2mins 07secs achieved by the 2005 winners of the Tyco Trophy, Bournemouth & West Hampshire Water, at IWEX ’05.

In 2000 women’s teams competed at a national level for the first time, for the Vernon Morris trophy.

Thames Ladies were the first to pick up the trophy, with a time of 6mins 07secs. Like the men, women’s teams have steadily slashed their times. In 2005 Bournemouth & West Hampshire reigned supreme, the company’s ladies joined their male counterparts in top slot with a time of 4mins 24secs.

Drilling and tapping also has an international dimension, with teams from UK, USA and Netherlands currently competing for the World Water Cup. The rules governing how the trial should be approached differ between each country, so for the international events each team performs the task once under each set of regulations.

The running time, plus penalty points, for all each drill and tap is aggregated with the lowest time winning.

The US has dominated the World Water Cup with its teams winning four of the six competitions held between 2000 and 2005.

The UK’s last success was a team from Three Valley Water in 2001, current holder is a team from Birmingham Alabama, which secured the cup at IWEX 2005.

The teams will do battle again at IWEX 2007, part of Sustainability Live! which is being staged at the Birmingham NEC on May 1-3.

If you want to see the drilling and tapping competition in the flesh head for the most raucous corner of the exhibition hall, but don’t get too close, those pressure mains can spray a fair way.

For more details about the competition, including details of how to field a team visit

IWEX 2007 is just one part of Sustainability Live!, the UK’s premier environmental event, which brings the water exhibition together for the first time with shows for the energy, contaminated and, and environmental technology and management sectors: NEMEX, ICU and ET respectively.

If you want to learn more about what Faversham House Group, the organiser of

Sustainability Live!, has planned for the revamped IWEX event, contact Esther Stoffels on 0208 651 7149.

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