Remaining resilient, whatever the weather

Simon Chadwick, Digital Services and Central Operations Director, shares how a water company like ours prepares for unprecedented weather patterns. 

The nature of our business means we’re no strangers to having to react to situations that are often out of control – especially the weather. 

In the past couple of weeks we have seen some of the hottest temperatures on record transform into over a month’s rainfall in just 24 hours and these extremes have a big impact on our business and our customers. 

Part of my role is to oversee our Integrated Control Centre and plan and respond to incidents to make sure our customers have safe, clean drinking water and have their wastewater taken away, whatever the weather. 

We always plan ahead. We work with other organisations and the Met Office to help predict supply and demand across the North West. We take a look at the weather patterns up to six months in advance to make sure we have enough water for our customers. 

We’ve had real weather extremes recently and although we’re never able to stop the rain falling, we can understand what impact this will have for region. 

The recent bad weather saw a 150% increase in the volume of wastewater customer calls and we responded to more than 900 wastewater network issues. Manchester and Cheshire were the main areas impacted and we prioritised our resources to the most serious customer service issues.

Thanks to our forward planning, we could see this extreme weather was due to hit so we doubled our resources to help our response. 

The influx of rain also impacted our wastewater treatment works and we were unable to access some of our sites for several days. Thankfully, our teams managed to keep the flow going through the first part of treatment on site by running generators and installed a flood barrier to prevent further damage. 

We’re not ones to shy away from helping others, and we joined the multi-agency response to the damaged dam at Toddbrook reservoir near Whaley Bridge. 

We shared our engineering knowledge and expertise to help the relief effort and helped to reduce the water levels in the reservoirs by deploying our emergency pumps to extract the water. We also installed three floating pontoons to help with access.

We can’t control the weather, but we are able to prepare, respond, react and help others. And that’s what we’ll continue to do.