We’re committed to using the best and most innovative technology to invest in the future of your drinking water.
That’s why we’re set to try new digital network sensors and water meters which we believe will give us more insight into the hidden world of our water pipes underground.
The meters we’re testing are the next generation of digital water meters which, if successful, will improve our service and give us an even better overview of how our system is working, around the clock.
By giving us the information we need, we will be able to find faults quicker than before – which means we can fix leaks before they cause disruption to the community.
Where is it happening?
The trial is happening in north Kent in the villages of Longfield and New Barn. About 2,000 customers in these areas will have their current meter replaced by new digital meters. We are also fitting a series of new sensors on our own network in the area too.
How did you select this area?
We know from the information we have that the Longfield and New Barn area has had leaks, something we are keen to stop. The area has a mix of water mains made from different materials, which may deteriorate in different ways over time, resulting in bursts. The area also has the mobile telecoms infrastructure we need for the trial.
What data is being collected?
We currently collect information from water meters but we only do this twice a year. This means that if you have a leak and you weren’t aware of it, it could have been running for six months before we read your meter. With the trial we will record this data every 15 minutes and collect it hourly.
When is it happening?
We will begin swapping out the existing meters for the new digital meters from 7 January. We will only carry out these works between 8am and 4pm on week days and we expect to have completed that part of the programme by March. This metering work is in accordance with our legal powers under the Water Industry Act 1991.
The 12-month trial will begin once all the new meters have been fitted, and will run until February 2020.
How long will the trial be running for?
From 7 January until March we will fit the new water meters. The 12 month trial itself will begin once all the existing meters have been swapped with the new meters. This is to ensure we have a complete and accurate data set for the whole area.
If we were to consider extending the trial, we will write to customers and offer the opportunity to opt out of the extension. As this is a small trial we need all the meters in the trial area to be connected to make sure it works. For that reason, you cannot opt out at this stage.
What is the aim of the trial?
As your local water supplier we manage a network of over 14,500 kilometres – or 9,000 miles - of water pipes which deliver top quality drinking water to customers’ homes.
We’re proud each year we’ve successfully improved the services we deliver to customers, and this includes reducing the amount of water lost through leaks - a top customer priority.
For many years we’ve hit all our leakage improvement targets, but we want to do more, and we’ve set our own ambitious targets for even further reductions over the next five years.
Identifying and pinpointing smaller, less visible underground leakage is a challenge we’re responding to with the development of Smarter Water Networks using the latest technology.
This will monitor our pipeline network from end to end, detecting changes in water pressure and flows around the clock, so we are able to deploy our engineers earlier, and repair leaks faster.
Since 2010, we have reduced the amount of water lost through leaks by eight per cent and our ambitious plans are to use the latest, most innovative technology to improve this by a further 14% by 2025.
Water pipes are hidden, sometimes metres underground, which makes finding and fixing the leaks we can’t see a real challenge.
The new digital meters across our network will record data every 15 minutes which we will collect hourly. This will enable us to spot leaks far quicker than we do now, both on our water mains and also on customers’ supply pipes, helping us pinpoint the location of the leak so we can fix it far quicker.
As well as driving down the amount of water lost to leaks, it will also reduce the amount of time our customers are without water during repairs.
Is this the first trial of its kind?
Other water companies in the UK and across the world are trialling digital meters, which provide customers and companies with more up-to-date meter readings. This gives customers more control over the amount of water they use and can flag hidden leaks on customer pipework.
What makes this trial different is the way we will be interconnecting the information gathered from the meters with our software and our network of pipes. The interconnectivity should identify at an early stage the amount of water leaking from a pipe hidden metres underground. This will flag on our system and signal it needs repairing. We can then fix the leak before it becomes a burst or visible on the surface – this is what makes this particular trial unique.
If you spot a suspected leak on my pipework, will you notify me?
Yes, similarly to what we do now, when we suspect higher than normal water use, we will give you a call to let you know we’ve spotted unusual activity.
If you can account for the extra water use, that’s not a problem, however if you can’t it may signal that there’s a leak either on your supply pipe or inside your property.
Will you investigate the leak for free?
Yes, once all the new digital meters have been fitted and have begun analysing the data, if we spot an anomaly we will contact you and if you wish, carry out free leak investigations. We will contact the bill payer directly if we do spot anything we feel is unusual.
Is this trial safe?
The trial uses established wireless communication technologies using radio waves and 5G to transmit data. The radio waves used by digital meters are lower than those produced by mobile phones and Wi-Fi equipment, and well below international guidelines.
Further information can be found on the government’s website.
At the moment you only read the meters every six months, will I be able to log onto My Account to see my latest water use so I can adjust my consumption accordingly?
The aim of the pilot is to improve our ability to find and repair leaks more quickly, so through the pilot we will not be making changes to the information available through our My Account service.
As the trial progresses we will be looking at possibilities for improving the information available through this service. When we reach this point we will write again providing an opportunity to sign up to any additional services.
In the meantime, if you would like to sign up to our My Account portal you can do so here.
What happens if my water meter is fitted internally?
In the New Barn and Longfield area we will be fitting digital meters to all properties that have a meter, including internal meters. We will contact those customers with an internal meter to arrange an appointment to fit the meter.
What happens if I don’t have a water meter, can you still fit me with one?
The trial will only fit a new digital water meter to a property with an existing meter.
How much is this trial costing?
We are investing nearly £750,000 on the trial as part of our commitment to reducing the amount of water lost to leaks and the number and duration of supply interruptions.
Will I see a difference in my water supply or bills?
You do not have to do anything and you will not notice any changes to your water supply or bill.
Can I opt out of the trial?
Customers cannot opt out of the trial. This is because as it’s only a small trial we need all the meters in the trial area to be connected to the network so we can assess whether the trial works and identifies enough of a benefit to consider whether this will work in other areas.
How to contact us about the Smarter Water Network Trial
You can call our Customer Technical Centre on 0333 000 1122. Lines are open Monday to Friday between 8am - 7pm, and Saturdays between 8am and 1pm.
I don’t have/want ‘My account’ – can I call for my meter readings?
Yes, you can call 0333 000 0001.
What will happen to my data and meter readings once the trial completes?
As this will be your usual meter read that we will need for billing you, we will keep that as normal.
You can request what your read is at any time. Where we have collected the more frequent reads, we will keep it in line with our usual retention processes (i.e seven years after you have stopped being a customer of ours). We will use the data at the end of the trial for analysis and determine whether we think it helped us reduce leakage.
If at the end of this analysis we no longer need the data we will delete any additional data or just keep anonymous details to use for business planning purposes.
If you are a customer in our smart networks trial area, the digital meter will collect the readings at 15 minutes intervals but will only transmit this back to us on an hourly basis.
Where are the meters manufactured?
They are made in the UK, Germany and Mexico.
During the trial we will be using this data for the following reasons:
- Leakage detection – we should be able to locate whether the leak is in your property or on our network (and where on our network) which will help us fix it quicker. If the leak is in your property we can point you in the right direction to get it fixed. It could help us identify how to better prioritise which leak to fix first in some cases
- Reducing the volume of water lost to leaks – if we find the leak quicker we can fix it quicker and save water
- Testing the battery and telecommunications channels to make sure the devices will last as long as they say they should
- We may talk to you as well to see if extra information about your water use improves water efficiency at all
- We may analyse the data to see if we can offer new services such as tariffs or water use plans to customers in the future
- During the trial we will also use the meter reads we collect to carry on with managing your account and providing your water services in the normal way
This trial is an important way for us to find ways to manage and reduce leakage and reduce the water used per person, in a more efficient and time sensitive way. As such we will be processing the data from this trial as part of the legitimate interests of a water company.
For more information on how we will be collecting the data from your meter and using it as part of this trial, please see the Developing Smarter Water Networks Trial section of our privacy notice.