It was an eye-opener to hear at a water industry event, run by Cambridge Cleantech, that water costs just £1 a tonne to the customer.  This begs the question: ‘why the need to invest in new technologies?’

The answer, of course, is that the water networks around our region were built in Victorian times and therefore pose no end of problems – leaking, burst pipes, and so on.  The need for smart water meters is apparent and the benefits clear, but unfortunately it seems British water companies are struggling to implement them across their networks.  We were told that for Cambridge Water, only 75% of all water charged is metered and 83% of meters are encoded (legacy meters) and need to be replaced with smarter meters.

At Cambridge Cleantech’s event we were introduced to innovative technology companies, such as Syrinix and Sentec, involved with bringing new products to market to help water companies.  But, with no investment forthcoming, they are taking their products elsewhere – Sentec, for example, has taken its sensor technology to North America where it is being readily implemented.  In comparison to the UKs 20 water companies, USA has 30,000 water companies, including many municipals.  We can see where the attraction lies for new technology across the pond.

According to recent UK reports, there will be a 40% shortfall in water by 2013, which highlights further the increasing demand for smart water technology.  In Cambridge alone, there are 50,000 people employed in high tech jobs – having sweated over their research and development, it is only natural for them to want to see their product brought to market.  So, with no investment available, who can blame them for taking their products further afield, to Australia, Middle East and North America?

UK Trade & Investment told the Cambridge Cleantech event delegates that it wants to see synergy between ICT and the water industry.  Ultimately, technology developers and water companies have the same goals of adopting new technologies and network optimisation methods in pursuit of efficiency savings but, for collaboration to work, we need our water companies to take a long-term view and invest now to save later.  

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