Northumbrian Water has become the first company to sign a national data-sharing agreement for a project which is set to help keep utility workers safe and save the UK economy billions.
The National Underground Asset Register (NUAR) will be a digital map of utility assets under the ground.
The concept was developed by a number of partners including a consortium of utilities and local authorities along with Ordnance Survey, 1Spatial and MGISS at the Northumbrian Water Innovation Festival back in 2018 and has since been turned into reality by the Geospatial Commission and engineering specialists Atkins.
Created to improve the efficiency and safety of excavations, NUAR will significantly reduce the probability of dangerous and costly utility strikes – helping keep utility workers safe while they are out in the field.
Before NUAR, teams were digging holes in the ground using a map pack of where pipes and cables were, taking more time and effort with less accuracy – meaning that there is a risk of damage to assets as well as to people.
In 2018 alone, Northumbrian Water spent over £1M repairing pipes that had been damaged by third parties, and it’s estimated that the cost to the UK’s economy of accidental strikes on underground assets is £2.4bn a year.
NUAR will provide a consistent, interactive digital map of buried asset data, which will be refreshed and kept up to date – making planning and executing excavations much easier for underground asset owners.
Now, Northumbrian Water has been the first in a line of utility companies to sign a data distribution agreement – showing their recognition in the value of NUAR and for their data be shared with other partners.
The project will help to improve data quality between partnering organisations and will help to transform the industry on a national scale.
Clive Surman-Wells, Innovation Partnerships Manager at Northumbrian Water, said: “This was an idea grown from a tiny seed sown at one of our early Innovation Festivals, and to watch how it has grown is absolutely astounding.
“Being the first company to sign this agreement is a real honour, and we are incredibly thankful to our partners at the Geospatial Commission and Atkins for allowing us to be a part of this historic moment.
“By taking NUAR out into the ‘real world’, not only will it save the UK economy billions, and help to keep lives safe, but it will also help to create jobs which is an incredible benefit in itself.
“The project itself is a great example of what trust between partnering organisations can achieve.
“I can’t wait to see how NUAR continues to grow, and I’d encourage as many utilities as possible to join the movement and sign the agreement so we can move towards being a data-sharing industry for the benefit of our staff and customers.”
Chris Chambers, Deputy Director for NUAR Delivery at Geospatial Commission added: “The Data Distribution Agreement (DDA) is a critical element of NUAR – allowing us to share asset owner’s data with third parties.
“A lot of effort and consideration has gone into understanding the needs and requirements for sharing data, and this enables asset owners to be confident when sharing data through the NUAR platform.
“We are pleased to see Northumbrian Water continue their pioneering approach to innovation and are grateful once again to them for showing their support for NUAR.
“We already have another 20 asset owners who have joined Northumbrian Water in signing a DDA and look forward to more asset owners joining Northumbrian Water in signing the agreement and sharing their data with us for the benefit of all asset owners and excavators.”