Case studies

We collaborate externally with our innovation partners to implement new technologies and ways of working into our business. Here are just a few examples of how we’ve successfully delivered innovation across a variety of areas. We are constantly working on new and exciting ideas which will be highlighted on this page – come back soon to see what else we’ve been working on.

  • We are responsible for over 180 reservoirs across the North West and we want to ensure that our customers and colleagues are safe at these locations. 

    It’s important for us to continue spreading awareness of the hidden dangers of reservoirs and how we can keep people safe. Our graduates reviewed ways we could improve the safety measures we have in place by looking at our 10 most high risk reservoirs. They also worked with the fire service to trial how we can implement throwlines at these locations for emergency circumstances.

    As well as focusing on our high risk reservoirs, the team also made sure that our signage at these sites were up to date with the correct emergency contact details. This helped us build strong relationships with the Fire and Rescue services. The team also reached out to 600 schools via an email campaign to raise awareness.

    We are committed to continue working with the fire and rescue services on Reservoir Safety. This is a vital part of keeping the public safe by educating on the risks at these sites and what to do in an emergency. It’s important that we cover these aspects of our company to ensure we are delivering the best support and providing the right information to our customers, the public and our colleagues. You can find out more about Reservoir Safety here.

    Throwline Case Study

  • To ensure the water is clean and safe for our customers to consume means we have to follow a particular process. Historically, we used mercury UV bulbs for the removal of compounds such as micro-organisms, odours or bacteria. Even though this process worked, we reviewed ways we could improve our techology to help us through our water treatment process. We also investigated a way of eliminating compounds to reduce the amount of energy and making it a safer process.

    Typhon came to us as part of our Innovation Lab with the idea of utilising UV LED lights to replace the mercury UV by still meeting our treatment requirement standards. They would do this by building the world’s first reactor using UV LED lights. With utilising UV LED bulbs, it means this will have a lower voltage which ultimately reduces our power usage, it’s 90% more efficient than traditional bulbs, reduced maintenance and better for the health and safety of our colleagues who work on these sites.

    We are proud to be the first water company that’s started to replace old bulbs with new LED ones and no other suppliers offer UV LED technology at this scale.

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  • One of our main focus areas at United Utilities is leakage as we have a target to reduce this by 15% by 2025. We have processes in place to help identify leaks but it’s been proven difficult to locate the leaks within our rural areas. To minimise this problem, we brought in ex-military dogs to try a new way of working. We started by training the dogs with the scent of water in different locations to see if they could detect the scent. After a couple of weeks, the dogs were able to detect leak locations that weren't visible to our engineers. With the amazing work of our sniffer dogs, this has reduced the time it's taken us to find and fix leaks in our rural areas.

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  • Traditional wastewater treatment methods use large amounts of chemicals and energy whilst typically taking up a significant spatial footprint. Combining this with issues such as security of supply of chemicals and the carbon impact of their use, there was a need for a more cost effective and sustainable solution.

    The innovative Nereda® technology provided this alternative with a reduction in footprint, operating costs, and reduction in reliance on chemicals. Nereda® is a wastewater treatment process developed by Delft University in the Netherlands in conjunction with the engineering consultancy Royal HaskoningDHV. It is a biological solution for phosphorus removal from wastewater; rivalling the traditional chemical-based methods the water industry relies upon.

    Nereda® forms granules that are heavy and settle fast; leading to a shorter settlement time between batches. This contrasts to a conventional treatment approach where these processes would have occurred in different zones along the lanes of an activated sludge plant followed by a separate settlement stage. Harnessing bacteria in this way reduces the footprint required to achieve similar treatment thus reducing the footprint of new treatment works.

    The Nereda® technology proved to be an improvement over traditional means, offering a viable alternative to the existing wastewater treatment solutions. The solution uses only 50-70% of the energy that a conventional treatment works would use and the process occurs near to 6 times faster than it would have occurred if traditional treatment methods had been used aswell as using little to no chemicals. This solution has been rolled out across several Wastewater Treatment works in United Utilities.

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  • At United Utilities we want all of our colleagues to get involved with innovating to enhance our current processes. We do this through a variety of different ways, one of them being with our graduates. This is a great opportunity to introduce our graduates to innovation and how they can play a vital part in their programme but also in future roles.

    Watch the video below to find out what Suzy and Cat have been working on to help us reach our carbon net zero goal.

    Watch on YouTube