The funding has been granted to two separate projects. The National Leakage Research and Test Centre has been awarded £5.3million while Stream receives £880,000. The money will be used to detect and repair leaks more quickly, as well as making services more efficient.
It is part of the Water Breakthrough Challenge, an innovation competition led by water regulator Ofwat to spark innovations to address the challenges facing the water industry.
Northumbrian Water will create a national centre, testing new products to combat leakage under “real life” conditions, improving safety and effectiveness so that they can be rolled out faster and at a larger scale.
The National Leakage Centre project will feature a large-scale five km, buried water network and control room, which will be used to help develop better leakage detection and repairs.
Innovators and inventors will be able to use the site to test their ideas, without interrupting water supplies or quality.
The second project, Stream, will see the development of a new open data-sharing platform for the water industry, allowing all UK water companies to share data with one another, other utilities companies and the public.
Angela MacOscar, head of innovation at Northumbrian Water Group, said: “I am incredibly proud that we have managed to secure funding for not one, but two of our projects.
“In the last round of the challenge, we won funding for customer-focused projects – and whilst these projects will help our customers, they will also boost innovation and provide environmental benefits too.
“I particularly love these projects because they are real enablers that will speed up the development of innovative products and solutions in the water sector. I can’t wait to see how both of these projects develop.”
In October 2021, Environment Agency boss James Bevan warned that drier summers from climate change will increase the risk of drought and water shortages.
In 2019-20, leaks across England and Wales were reduced by 7%, or 216 million litres per day. However, that still left just under three billion litres per day; equivalent to 1,180 Olympic swimming pools.
In the year ending March 2021 Northumbrian Water’s profits fell by more than half to £70.1million.