Mini hydropower turbines and ‘splash-free’ pavements: Ofwat backs 20 environmental innovations

Stock image: Wastewater treatment infrastructure

Ofwat has today (4 July) announced 20 finalists for its next phase of the £4m Water Discovery Challenge – a competition supporting organisations outside of the water sector that are producing innovations that could be used within it, to solve its most pressing challenges.

These challenges include climate adaptation; decarbonisation; improving efficiencies and – of course – reducing pollution.

One project addressing multiple challenges is Kiacrete. Based out of Imperial College London, Kiacrete has developed permeable paving slabs that enable rainwater to drip through into plastic collection systems underneath. This enables the water to be reused, while also reducing flooding risks.

Ofwat is also supporting The Fish Friendly Hydropower Company in developing and rolling out small-scale hydropower turbines which could generate electricity from water flowing through pipes; plus innovators who are working to transform contaminated water into energy while also cleaning it ready for reuse.

Given the ongoing criticism the UK’s water sector is facing over efficiencies, with a hosepipe ban having been implemented in parts of England amid a record-hot June, Ofwat is also backing solutions that could improve water management. They include a ‘spray-on’ pipe liner to repair leaks, developed by Yorkshire-based Resimac Limited.

Additionally, there are several innovations being developed with the intention of tackling pollution and reducing storm overflows, whereby untreated sewage is discharged.

Water Research Centre will be supported to develop a low-cost water monitoring system, improving the understanding of the impact of storm overflows on the environment, for example.

The 20 finalists will now be awarded up to £50,000 from the Ofwat Innovation Fund, as well as practical support including mentoring from water companies. Up to 10 of them will go on to win up to £450,000 further, later this year. With this level of funding, they will be supported to deliver pilot projects.

Ofwat chief executive David Black said: “Water affects all industries, so with the Water Discovery Challenge we wanted to cast our net outside the sector, and see what those in adjacent industries propose to help us maintain a safe and sustainable supply.

“The finalists’ ideas address numerous core concerns for the future of the sector – from future-proofing cities to anticipating the impact of climate change, and we’re excited to help bring these ideas to life.”

Earlier this year, Ofwat announced £40m of funding under its Water Breakthrough Challenge, which is open to organisations within the sector. This fund supported flexible water ‘batteries’ for farms and the UK’s first full-scale, carbon neutral wastewater plant, among other projects.

Related feature: AI-powered ocean robots and second-life batteries: The best green innovations of June 2023

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