Nigel Dyer is managing director of Kier’s water business. Here he talks about the importance of introducing new ideas within the business to drive key issues such as leak detection and safety to help meet client demands to innovate across the forthcoming AMP7 framework.

"With the increasing demand for greater resilience in the water network and the growing concern about climate diversity and water use, Kier is engaging with many of its partners to collaborate on the best ways that emerging technology can be used to help leak reduction.

This is an area of real focus during AMP7 as stretching targets of up to 17% reduction in leakage are now required by clients across the sector as they work to improve the monitoring of the network and detection of faults so that supply to customers can be maintained.

Installing maritime technology into the water network in the form of advanced noise loggers has been a start. Operating like a hydrophone, a technology traditionally used for submarine navigation, the devices are installed in the pipes to listen for changes in sound of the water in the pipes. 

This technology allows water staff to wirelessly access data from the devices and track any changes in sound throughout the network before they are visible to the naked eye as an actual leak. This can lead to a faster and more efficient repair process which minimises disruption to the network, affected area or water supply.

When water leaks do occur, reaching the sites with suitable machinery to make a repair can sometimes be difficult.  Narrow streets, on street parking and footpaths between houses are just some of the obstacles we must navigate in order to reach some sites.

The safety of our operatives and the general public is the number one priority for us in our day to day operations, ensuring everybody is home safe at the end of the day.

Repairs and improvements to the water network are always going to be necessary but delivering this safely is of primary importance. Our recent trials of smart barriers are helping us keep our people and the public safe whilst we carry out our works.

To help overcome the issue of access and space, we needed to find a solution that allowed us to make repairs in areas that are tight on space, Traditionally, the response to these hard to reach locations would be hand digging. This itself presents challenges, with the potential for error and hitting other services and the additional pressure on operatives quite high. This makes a manual dig much less efficient.

To combat this, Kier has turned to vacuum excavation, a way of removing material above the leaking pipe without having to dig a hole and risk hitting other services. Whilst the technology has been widely used in the utility industry for some years, new developments have meant machinery is getting smaller and more agile so can now reach those challenging locations. A mini vac-ex machine enables Kier to reach leaks that are not accessible with a 32-ton vac-ex lorry.

To help continually improve safety on and around our sites, our safety barriers are now being fitted with beacon tracking devices allowing us to be alerted remotely by text message when barriers around an excavation fall over or go missing. This allows our teams to quickly replace the fallen barrier to their correct positions or to locate missing ones and ensure the excavations or exposed holes do not pose a safety risk to the public. We plan to roll this new technology out across the UK to help keep our sites as safe as possible.

We are working with partners and within Kier to identify and trial other innovations across our client networks to ensure we remain at the forefront of technology. This will enable us to deliver better service that meets our clients’ needs and maintain their assets efficiently. Detecting leaks earlier and intervening less on the network is our ambition.

If you have any suggestions on how we can continue to innovate I would be very happy to receive any ideas at Nigel.Dyer@kier.co.uk"

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