Ofwat awards funding to winners of the second Water Breakthrough Challenge

Innovations to improve water efficiency, stop leaks and increase carbon capture win big in Ofwat’s Water Breakthrough Challenge

Ofwat has awarded funding to the winners of the second Water Breakthrough Challenge – part of a series of innovation competitions made possible by its £200m Water Innovation Fund and delivered by Nesta Challenges, Arup and Isle Utilities. The fund helps stimulate new innovations, enabling the water sector to better meet the evolving needs of customers, society and the environment.

The winners of the Transform Stream of the Water Breakthrough Challenge – focused on large-scale, long-term, game-changing innovations – include:

  • National Leakage Research and Test Centre (NLRTC) – Northumbrian Water will create a national centre to test new products to combat leakage under “real life” conditions, improving safety and effectiveness so that they can be rolled out faster and at a larger scale.
  • Managing Background Leakage – a group of water companies led by Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water will help develop new technologies to detect the many leaks that are currently missed by existing investigative methods through forensic investigations of 25 areas, deploying flow, pressure and temperature sensors at an intensity never previously undertaken.
  • Enabling Smart Water Communities – a group of water companies, universities, home builders and local authorities will work together to ensure that the 4 million new homes[1] planned by 2041 can be integrated into the water system in a sustainable way, ensuring new communities have continued access to finite water resources, wastewater is managed, and flood risks are mitigated.
  • CECCU (CHP Exhaust Carbon Capture and Utilisation) – a project to turn captured carbon into useful products like paint and fertiliser, saving 5 million tonnes of CO2 per year and making the Combined Heat and Power (CHP) process – where heat as a byproduct of energy generated is captured and used – carbon neutral.

John Russell, Senior Director, Strategy, Finance and Infrastructure at Ofwat said: 

“It’s crucial for the water sector to come up with new, innovative ideas to fix the challenges that the sector – and society – faces. The winners revealed today will help develop ideas to save more water, turn captured carbon into useful products, and – ultimately – make the sector more sustainable.

“Ofwat’s Innovation Fund, which provides the prize money for these competitions, exists to help stimulate  new and bold initiatives by water companies working in partnership with universities, charities, engineering practices and technology firms. We have much to learn from other sectors and the winners of this round of the competition showcase just how much can be achieved when we collaborate.”

Sharon Darcy, Director, Sustainability First and Chair of the judging panel for the Transform Stream of the second Water Breakthrough Challenge said: 

“Though many will think of net zero as an issue for power companies, the water sector consumes 2-3% of electricity generated in the UK. Novel solutions that bear down on greenhouse gas emissions like CECCU and mainstreaming approaches like Enabling Smart Water Communities that help to manage and reduce demand for water can go a long way to helping the sector reach its net zero targets for the good of everyone.”

To find out more about the winners of the Water Breakthrough Challenge and Ofwat’s innovation fund, visit waterinnovation.challenges.org.

Ofwat recently opened a consultation into the future direction of the Water Breakthrough Challenges and the Water Innovation Fund. There are two ways to have a say, through the online response form or by emailing comments to innovationconsultation@ofwat.gov.uk.

The six-week consultation closes on 17 May 2022 – full details about the consultation can be viewed at www.ofwat.gov.uk.

[1] https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationprojections/bulletins/2016basedhouseholdprojectionsinengland/2016basedhouseholdprojectionsinengland   




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