Who says there’s no innovation in water?
Whole Government reports have been devoted to the subject of innovation in the UK water industry. The general gist is that, despite all of the money and effort that has gone into upgrading the UK's water infrastructure since the industry was privatised 25 years ago, much more needs to be done to encourage the uptake of new technologies that could help to improve overall operational efficiency.
This situation looks to change with the introduction of TOTEX (TOTal EXpenditure). With its focus on total life expenditure and holistic network performance, TOTEX looks set to provide a fertile environment for innovation, as companies evolve to develop their understanding of their existing asset base. In particular, TOTEX replaces the previous CAPEX/OPEX focus on ‘outputs’ with an ‘outcome’-led approach, which places a much greater emphasis on achieving and demonstrating asset and network effectiveness.
Whilst embracing innovation may well have been lacking amongst water operators, the supply chain at least appears to be ahead of the game. This was particularly apparent at the recent IWEX exhibition at the Birmingham NEC, where suppliers of technology, expertise and water-related services presented their latest offerings.
Taking ABB’s exhibition stand as a starting point, visitors were shown the latest examples of the latest instruments, analysers, drives and motors for potable and wastewater applications. Several of these represent cutting edge developments. Our AquaMaster 3 flowmeter for example, is the first in the world to combine integrated flow and pressure measurement in a single device. It is also the first to feature WITS DNP3 technology, which allows operators to gain, via GPRS communications, unprecedented access to a range of performance data, including diagnostic data on the status of the meter itself.
We also had the first in our range of digital optical sensors, which use the latest advances in optical measurement technology to deliver stable and accurate measurement whilst maintaining calibration without drift.
Both of these instruments are good examples of the type of equipment that can be used to deliver the big data from a network that can be turned into information and used as the basis for operational decision-making in a TOTEX environment.
Energy and maintenance form another crucial part of the TOTEX equation, with savings in either area making an obvious contribution to reducing overall lifetime costs. Again, ABB’s stand provided examples of some of the latest thinking in this area, including our SynRM (synchronous reluctance motor) and drive package for the water industry. Offering good partial load efficiency performance for all pumping applications, the package combines the benefits of a premium motor control with the highest levels of motor performance, giving ultimate efficiency and reliability to optimise pump system cost of ownership.
ABB’s stand was just one of dozens representing the latest developments in technology, spanning all aspects of the potable and wastewater treatment cycles.
In short, the innovation to help water companies transform their network performance is definitely out there. The challenge now is to move beyond a short term cost focus, which has too often led to the selection of the cheapest cost rather than the best value solutions, and work with suppliers to see what they can really offer.