Public and Regulatory Pressure to Eliminate Sewage Spills in UK Drives Need for Metasphere’s Smart Water Solutions

Public outcry about sewage pollution in waterways has reached a tipping point in the United Kingdom.

This past October, on the eve of COP26, media coverage of a massive plume of effluent flowing into the sea angered the British public, prompting many concerned citizens to demand immediate action from the UK government.

The spill in question lasted 49 hours. Unfortunately, it wasn’t an anomaly. According to the UK’s Environment Agency, there were 403,171 spills of sewage into England’s rivers and seas in 2020, adding up to more than 3.1 million hours of spillages.[1]

Under Ofwat, the body that regulates the UK’s water sector, utilities are subject to increasingly prohibitive fines for exceeding spill limits. Under new rules, The Guardian reports, utilities will be required by law to show a reduction in sewage spills over the next five years – or risk even heftier fines.

“Utilities have found themselves on the back foot,” says Tim O’Brien, CEO of UK-based Metasphere. “The public is furious. Infrastructure is outdated, failing, and will cost billions to upgrade. Fines are reaching millions of pounds. Severe wet weather events are making everything worse. It’s an enormous challenge.”

Meeting demand for smart solutions

O’Brien and his team want to improve the stakes for utilities. “Utilities manage huge networks of pipes, but they don’t have accurate, up-to-the-minute data about the volume coming through their network at any given time,” he says. “As a result, they can’t always predict or manage spills.”

By combining smart machine learning data analytics with IoT connected level monitors – an innovation called ART Sewer – Metasphere is providing utilities with a robust, reliable, and cost-effective way to monitor their networks. The result is expanded network visibility, which will allow utilities to forecast potential issues, make better decisions about how to manage them, and meaningfully improve performance.

ART Sewer uses contactless IoT sensors to collect and feed sewer-level data into a powerful data analytics platform. Together with rainfall data, this information helps the platform detect potential issues, including partial blockages across the network, and monitor and prevent flooding events.

O’Brien says Metasphere’s customers are seeing impressive results. “They’re using the platform to reduce spills and help inform budgets. The data has helped them prioritize their upgrades. Some have even managed network capacity such that they can defer those projects.”

Success in the UK and beyond

Metasphere has been selected by two major UK utilities as part of network wide rollouts for ART Sewer, which will involve connecting tens of thousands of IoT devices throughout their collection networks. Another four UK utility customers are expected to begin deploying devices in 2022, O’Brien says.

The company has also received purchase orders in Southeast Asia and Australia. “We’ve had global interest in our solutions, but after COP26, things are really coming into focus,” he says. “The UK has difficult challenges to overcome, but it’s not just an issue here – it’s happening everywhere.”As the population grows and we experience increasingly severe climate impacts, he adds, the world needs to protect water and wastewater networks. “We’re proud to be part of the solution.”