Welsh Water’s Innovative Artificial Intelligence (AI) Initiative to transform Algal monitoring awarded £385,000 in latest Ofwat innovation competition

19 May 2023

Welsh Water’s innovative project idea to use artificial intelligence (AI) improving the way water companies monitor algae levels in reservoirs has this week received £385,000 in funding from Ofwat’s Innovation Fund.

The project is one of 16 solutions being awarded a share of £40 million today in the water regulator’s latest innovation competition – the Water Breakthrough Challenge.

The initiative, from Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water will use artificial intelligence (AI) to transform algal monitoring into a high-throughput, high-accuracy laboratory or field-based process for a fraction of the cost, compared to traditional algal monitoring, allowing better risk prediction enabling water companies to take earlier, more cost effective and targeted actions.

The Water Breakthrough Challenge encourages initiatives that help to tackle the biggest challenges facing the water sector, such as achieving net zero, protecting natural ecosystems and reducing leakage, as well as delivering value to society.

Phil Jones, Technical Development Manager at Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water said: “Ensuring drinking water is safe to drink requires constant monitoring and prediction of risk. This is true for the water quality risks associated with algae and cyanobacteria e.g., taste and odour causing compounds which are predicted to increase with frequency and intensity with climate change. Traditional algal monitoring is time consuming, resource intensive and does not provide sufficient data for predictive modelling of algal risks. This funding will enable a significant leap forward in algal analysis and accelerate the use of algal data to predict water quality risks. This will provide benefits to customers and wider society, as it will better equip the water industry to tackle current and future algal related water quality challenges.”

David Black, CEO at Ofwat said: “The water sector has faced mounting pressure over systemic challenges related to the environment and society, while the climate around us continues to drastically change shape. That’s why we’re funding ground-breaking innovations with potential to help us save and reuse water and wastewater products, while supporting wider society.”

The Water Breakthrough Challenge is part of a series of competitions from Ofwat, run by Challenge Works with Arup and Isle Utilities, designed to drive innovation and collaboration in the sector to benefit individuals, society and the environment.

Previous rounds of the competition have already seen numerous innovative projects win funding for their potential to benefit customers, society and the environment through solutions that introduce rainwater storage systems to local communities and minimise water demand in new building projects.

More information about the winners of the Water Breakthrough Challenge can be found here.