One of the biggest challenges faced by many local councils in the UK is a greater need to work more efficiently. In Manchester City Council’s case, something that required particular attention was its water usage – which, across all of its buildings, from schools and civic buildings to town halls and offices, amounted to a significant volume.
The scale on which Manchester City Council operates is vast and poses a number of challenges, but keeping an eye on water usage trends across a variety of different buildings and sites can be tricky to manage.
In one particular area, at the council’s Smithfield site, the local authority noticed an increase in water usage. As the site is used for around-the-clock food preparation, the local authority was unable to follow its usual procedure involving shutting off water during non-business hours to pinpoint the source of the problem. But this is where Water Plus stepped in.
A joint venture between Severn Trent and United Utilities formed in 2016, Water Plus’ specialist water management teams worked with council operations to find out what was causing the spike in the site’s water usage. Water Plus helped to install automated meter reading (AMR) devices to help track the water consumption and, after the water management teams analysed the data coming back from the loggers. They identified that the dramatic increase in consumption wasn’t coming from the food production alone – the issue was caused by a series of leaks; one large and two smaller bursts.
The problem was rectified quickly, reducing usage from 8.63m3 per hour to 1.32m3 per hour, saving the local council £60,000 per year. Since then, Manchester City Council has used more data loggers on other sites and has realised the water efficiency benefits they bring.
Lindsay Oldham, Technical Officer (Water Management) at Manchester City Council, said: “The service provided by Water Plus has been invaluable to us. We’re now using the data logger technology on a number of our other sites and we’re reaping the rewards. Our Water Plus contact was exceptionally helpful and tracking our water consumption couldn’t be easier.”
From the start of April, the water market in England is opening to competition, which means that business customers will be able to buy their water services in the same way as many Scottish customers have been doing since the Scottish water market opened in 2009.
Wholesalers - the local supplier - will still supply businesses with clean water and take away waste water, but meter reading, billing and customer services will be handled by new retailers.
For organisations with operations across the country, it will mean being able to consolidate all of their services under one supplier – under the current arrangements, they could be dealing with as many as 21 different regional water companies. And, if Manchester City Council’s experience is anything to go by, they’ll also benefit from keener pricing, customer service improvements, and greater innovation.
Tony McHardy, Water Plus Corporate Director, said: “Manchester City Council is an excellent example of what can be achieved by water retailers, with knowledgeable water experts, working collaboratively with other organisations to get a great result and ensure more value for money, better service and more innovation. With the water market opening, larger organisations like Manchester City Council can expect to see a wider range of flexible billing options, specialist key account management, smart metering and data analytics to help streamline processes and increase efficiency.
“One of the most important lessons that came out of Scotland’s experience was the need for preparation. Any businesses considering switching will need to take a number of steps now to prepare. Firstly, they need to ensure their data is in order – check you have visibility over all of your sites and their consumption is properly recorded. Secondly, they need to make sure they are contractually ready to switch – are all your governance procedures in place? Thirdly, think about what is important to your business: what value-added services are going to make a real difference? The benefits to many businesses could be significant.
“We understand that organisations may need help understanding their data and we’ll take a personal approach. We work with customers to get a clear view on their portfolio and their consumption.”
About Water Plus
Water Plus is a joint venture between two of the largest water suppliers in the UK: Severn Trent and United Utilities. The company brings together the best of Severn Trent and United Utilities and has been built around business customers.
Water Plus offers a refreshing approach to business water retailing, providing services for businesses across the UK and in Scotland. Water Plus has secured national contracts including David Lloyd leisure sites.
We know from experience businesses want services that are straightforward and easily accessible and they also want advice on water consumption and how to save on water costs – and we can provide exactly that.
Water Plus provides a variety of services including billing, meter reading, account management, water efficiency advice and lots more for businesses of all sizes and other organisations, including those in the public sector. The business is based in Stoke-on-Trent, in Staffordshire.