Yorkshire Water aims to reduce sewage dumping through new pilot

Yorkshire Water has set out plans for a smart wastewater network pilot that it hopes will help reduce intermittent sewage discharges into the river Wharfe.

The pilot will be carried out in Ilkley and will use monitoring and communications technology, alongside artificial intelligence, to improve the operator’s understanding of sewer network performance in a bid to “reduce sewer flooding and pollution”.

The move was likely prompted by the EA last year designating a stretch of the river in West Yorkshire as the first recognised bathing site on a river in England, following a months-long campaign by  residents of Ilkley.

As part of the pilot, smart monitoring, analytics and control solutions will be used to manage the flow of sewage from homes to treatment works and, once treated, to manage discharges back into the environment.

Yorkshire Water says the pilot will offer real-time, end-to-end management and control of wastewater flows and assets, reducing intermittent discharges from combined sewer overflow (CSO) discharges, sewer flooding and improving energy efficiency to reduce carbon emissions. 

In conjunction with a range of wider initiatives, Yorkshire Water says the smart wastewater pilot will contribute to improve water quality in the River Wharfe.

Richard Kershaw, Yorkshire Water’s wastewater innovation programme manager, said: “The technology available to us now means we are better able to access and analyse data from multiple sources. Ultimately, this provides us with greater visibility of what’s happening within the wastewater network so we can manage and control it better and respond to changes quickly and efficiently.

“In Ilkley, we have worked with the local community and stakeholders for a number of years and understand the specific issues that are important to our customers in the area. Our smart wastewater network pilot will offer important learning for how we manage our network in the future and provide value to our customers throughout the region for the long term.”

The water industry has come under increasing pressure over CSOs after a BBC Panorama investigation earlier this year revealed that water firms have been discharging untreated wastewater into rivers in breach of their permits on a regular basis.

The dumping is only allowed if there has been exceptionally heavy rain and only if the company in question has already treated a specified volume of water. 

Much of it goes unreported, despite the sector being obliged to report to the Environment Agency all CSO discharges, known as event duration monitoring,. In 2020, the sector told the agency it dumped sewage into England’s waters 400,000 times, up from 200,000 the previous year, for a total of 3.1 million hours. Though the actual figures are likely to be much higher.  

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