Innovation in Water Challenge Winners

Eleven collaborative entries of the inaugural Innovation in Water Challenge will receive up to £250,000 each to tackle the biggest issues facing the water sector in England and Wales. The initiatives have been selected for their innovative approach to key challenges in the water sector.  

These highly collaborative projects bring together 14 different water companies, as well as a wide range of partner organisations from within and outside the water sector. Their overall worth is £2.16m.

The winning entries are (in alphabetical order):

  • AI & Sewer Defect Analysis  
  • CatchmentLIFE 
  • Enabling Whole Life Carbon Design 
  • Industrial Symbiosis 
  • Leak Detection using Dark Fibre
  • Organics Ammonia Recovery 
  • Reservoir water community monitoring for algal associated risk assessment
  • Seagrass Seeds of Recovery 
  • Smarter Tanks to build a resilient network 
  • Supporting customers in vulnerable circumstances 
  • UK Water Sector Innovation Centre of Excellence


Click on the titles below to explore the successful entries of the IWC and the partners behind each initiative: 

IWC Winners


Using artificial intelligence and machine learning to automatically recognise features in CCTV inspection of sewers, the AI & Sewer Defect Analysis project will give a better understanding of sewer deterioration and reduce the cost of inspections.

Project partners: Dŵr Cymru (Welsh Water), Scottish Water, Severn Trent Water plc, Thames Water Utilities Limited, Water Research Centre, and Yorkshire Water Services Ltd. Led by United Utilities.

CatchmentLIFE will build bespoke software that volunteers and experts can use, showing the impacts of habitat degradation on wildlife and ecological communities.  

Project partners: Bristol Water plc, Earthwatch Europe, Environment Agency, Loughborough University, Natural Resources Wales, SES Water, The River Restoration Centre (RRC), University of Huddersfield, and Wessex Water Services Ltd. Led by South East Water.  

Enabling Whole Life Carbon Design will deliver the tools and processes required to support the cultural and behavioural changes necessary to deliver low whole life carbon and cost solutions and ultimately ‘zero carbon emissions’ as a water industry. 

Project partners: @one Alliance (Anglian Water, Balfour Beatty, Barhale, MMB, Sweco, Skanska and MWH Treatment|), Dŵr Cymru (Welsh Water), Skanska UK PLC, and Sweco UK Limited. Led by Anglian Water. 

Industrial Symbiosis will look at new ways waste or by-product materials from one company can be used as the raw materials for another.   

Project partners: International Synergies Ltd, Dŵr Cymru (Welsh Water), Jacobs, and Severn Trent Water plc. Led by United Utilities. 

This initiative will use unexploited optical fibre strands in existing telecoms cables to detect and therefore prevent leaks in water and wastewater networks.   

Project partners: Costain Ltd, Dŵr Cymru (Welsh Water), and Focus Sensors. Led by Hafren Dyfrdwy. 


The initiative will directly convert ammonia recovered from wastewater and generate a green hydrogen fuel – a first for the industry. 

Project partners: Anglian Water Services Ltd, Cranfield University, Organics Group, Warwick University, and Wood Group UK Ltd. Led by Northumbrian Water. 

Reservoir water community monitoring for algal associated risk assessment will build on environmental DNA monitoring methodologies to detect algae in drinking water so as to improve the taste and smell. 

Project partners: Bristol Water plc, Cardiff University, United Utilities, and Yorkshire Water Services Ltd. Led by Dŵr Cymru (Welsh Water). 

The Seagrass Seeds of Recovery project will provide a blueprint for the restoration of seagrass in the UK, creating opportunities for biodiversity improvements and carbon and nitrogen reduction. It will provide a route map to unlock the ‘blue carbon’ potential (carbon captured by marine ecosystems), for the water industry and beyond.   

Project partners: Anglian Water Services Ltd, Cefas (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science), Department of Zoology and Wadham College, University of Oxford, Environment Agency, Natural England, Project Seagrass, Salix River & Wetland Services Limited, Swansea University and University of Essex. Led by Affinity Water.  

This initiative will explore how to best monitor drinking water and rainwater storage tanks using real-time monitoring and control solutions, to see if more water can be stored when needed most, such as during extended dry periods or drought.      

Project partners:  Aqua Civils Ltd and University of Exeter. Led by Affinity Water. 

The involved partners will use behavioural science in its project Supporting customers in vulnerable circumstances to improve engagement with hard-to-reach customers and communities during planned and unplanned events, including help to manage bills and understanding which forms of communication customers prefer.    

Project partners:  Consumer Council for Water (CCW), South East Water Ltd and Thames Water Ltd. Led by Severn Trent Water. 

A partnership between several water companies will lead the delivery of UK Water Sector Innovation Centre of Excellence (CoE) – a virtual innovation accelerator hub to promote collaboration in and beyond the water sector and drive transformational innovation. 

Project partners: Affinity Water Limited, Albion Water Ltd, Anglian Water Services Ltd, Bristol Water plc, Hafren Dyfrdwy, Irish Water, Northern Ireland Water, Portsmouth Water Ltd, Scottish Water, SES Water, Severn Trent Water plc, South East Water Ltd, South Staffordshire Water, South West Water Ltd, Southern Water Services Ltd, Thames Water Ltd, UK Water Industry Research Limited, United Utilities Water Ltd, Wessex Water, and Yorkshire Water Services Ltd. Led by Northumbrian Water. 

We hosted an event on 5 May 2021 to showcase the winning projects. A video recording and transcript will be available soon – an exciting opportunity to watch the winners talk about their transformational initiatives!