Interview: Alastair Moseley - Future Water Association
Interview by James Brockett: Water and Waste Water Treatment (WWT)
Alastair Moseley, water industry consultant and chair of the Future Water Association's Innovation and Development Group, talks to WWT about the association's Water Dragons competition and what it reveals about innovation in the sector.
It’s not difficult to see why the television programme ‘Dragon’s Den’ is a popular format: when those with innovative ideas and products get the chance to make their pitch to the people that matter, it can lead to some great business deals as well as being compelling viewing.
In the water sector, it has spawned an established imitator in the form of Future Water Association’s ‘Water Dragons’ competition, the latest edition of which will be held at Utility Week Live in Birmingham on May 17-18.
Among the water company directors and experienced industry hands who will be acting as dragons on the day will be Alastair Moseley, consultant and past president of CIWEM who chairs the Innovation and Development Group for the Future Water Association. The value of such a competition, says Moseley, is that despite the priority that innovation now has in the sector, it is still relatively rare for innovators to get the chance to pitch their potentially game-changing technologies to figures who are senior enough to make a difference.
“The trouble is when pitching into a business, you are very often not pitching at the senior directors, you are talking to middle managers and people who have got day jobs to do,” Moseley explains. “Often they just don’t have the time to notice what it is you are bringing to them or to put it into place. Bringing new technology online is very hard work, and in the water company’s world, time is limited; they are doing more work and have more targets than they’ve had before. But when you’ve got a senior director sitting in front of you, who can see that something could transform the operation and could instruct his team to bring it online, then the whole picture changes, doesn’t it?”
Unlike Duncan Bannatyne and his television colleagues, the Water Dragons do not put their hand in their pockets to personally invest in any of the technologies pitched, but they are individuals who can wield significant purchasing power for their water company and act as advocates for an innovation in the wider industry. Previous entrants which have impressed Moseley have included technologies that use satellite imaging for spotting invasive species in the environment, a new type of lifting device for bringing pump sets out of wet wells, and a host of communication technologies that can give utilities speedy information about their assets.
While many Water Dragons participants have already had their products trialled by water companies, Moseley says that individual water companies insisting on their own trials is one of the major barriers to innovation in the industry.
“It’s a huge obstacle. For the supplier company it’s so frustrating: you get one approval come in, and then you have to go through a completely different set of hoops to get another one. It really does stifle take-up. No matter how different water companies are, if there is an advanced technology that helps to manage one company’s water assets, by and large they’ll all be able to use it.
“At the Future Water Association we are desperately trying to break down those barriers and look at ways of getting greater collaboration, not only between the supply chain and water companies, but between water companies themselves.
“What we really miss in this country is a standard testing house. We used to have this in the old days, when WRc was the Water Research Centre, and there’s a real need to return to something like that to really get technologies to take off in this country properly.”
Despite these barriers, there is a lot that innovators and would-be suppliers can do to help themselves and to give themselves the best chance of success. With this in mind, the Future Water Association has recently teamed up with the University of Sheffield’s Sheffield Water Centre to provide training for supply chain companies on every aspect of bringing their products to market. Moseley says that many owners of water tech businesses could improve on the way they build a business case and harness financial information, as well as dusting up on more general presentation skills. Having a good idea that works is not enough, he stresses - you need to ensure that everything you say about the kit is linked to the needs of the water company, and that innovations make economic sense when they are scaled up across a large business.
Asked what advice he would give to potential Water Dragons entrants, he says: “My main advice would be that if you come up with an idea and you are excited about it, just reality check it first. Make sure there is a need for it, and also think about how much of that product might be needed: if water companies only want to buy one or two of them, that might be your business case gone. It’s business cases that are the biggest failing, not understanding what the client actually needs to conduct his business over the five-year AMP and beyond.”
Having worked for over 30 years in civil engineering and water & environmental management, leading major consultancy businesses and latterly his own consultancy H20 WEM, Moseley describes himself as a business development consultant for the water industry. Having worked for many years with water company and contractor clients, he has a good appreciation of their needs both in terms of networks and treatment. In addition to his work at Future Water Association, he is a fellow at CIWEM (where he was president between 2008-9) and is running a major water-focused youth education programme for them. With FWA, He is also helping to run a junior version of Water Dragons aimed at GCSE-level teenagers, which aims to promote water sector careers through mentoring.
“Over the years I’ve seen a lot,” concludes Moseley. “I pride myself on being an observer who looks and learns, and is able to reflect that back to people in terms of critiquing what they are doing. And I encourage people to take ideas forward. Personally I’m all about encouragement - I’m a glass half full man.”
- The Future Water Association’s Water Dragons heat is one of the attractions taking place in the exhibition hall at Utility Week Live, Birmingham, May 17-18. For details see: www.utilityweeklive.co.uk
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Flooding - We're planning for the wrong future
Guest Blog: Building Magazine
06 March 2014
Alastair Moseley, honorary vice-president of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, director of environmental management consultant H2O WEM and government adviser.
Following the catastrophic floods of 2007, Sir Michael Pitt undertook one of the most comprehensive surveys ever made of the causes of flooding. The recommendations of the 2008 Pitt Review remain totally valid following the recent floods. Seven years on and it would seem that the recommendations have either not been followed or have been poorly implemented.
Pitt recommended that we needed to adopt an integrated and collaborative approach to managing surface water run-off and associated flooding led by suitably skilled and knowledgeable local authorities. I believe that Pitt’s recommendation of following such an integrated approach is the only sustainable option. There is no magic bullet to eliminating flood risk in the UK. Our climate is changing and rainfall patterns are becoming more erratic, severe and damaging. We need to manage flood risk through what is termed “a package of measures” on three levels: regional, local and on an individual property basis.
The national agencies should focus on regional flood management, keeping the rivers within their channels and flood plains.
Local authorities and water companies should ensure that our towns and cities are designed to channel water away from property to safe “holding” areas as well as working with landowners upstream of urban environments to hold back surface water and prevent run-off into urban areas. And individual communities should take responsibility for defending their properties against flooding through property-level flood protection and emergency planning.
For this to happen we need strong leadership from local government and sound advice from flood risk experts. Above all, we need integration and collaboration. Planning property and infrastructure development and maintenance in isolation is no longer an option. After all, rainfall and flood water do not recognise the boundaries between organisations.
Converging journeys to make space for water
Guest Blog for: Government Business
03 September 2015
Alastair Moselely of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management discusses water management systems and their importance in creating more sustainable environments.
Sometimes when you are on a long journey, it is easy to forget where you have come from and where you are aiming for. This is particularly so in the case of the journey - or rather, journeys - to provide clean water for all to drink and protect our communities and countryside from the crippling effects of flooding.
The route to achieving sustainable water management systems in the UK is characterised by the convergence of two journeys – one for the sustainable management of surface water, and one for the sustainable provision of clean water and sanitation. It is this convergence that I believe gives us possibly the greatest opportunity we have seen in many generations to transform the way we shape both our urban and rural landscapes for the benefit of society and the environment together.
Looking first at our journey to achieving sustainable surface water management - or flood risk management as it is better known. This can be traced back over many decades, but the most significant and recent part of that journey starts with the severe floods causing devastation to our towns, cities and countryside in 2000. These and the ensuing major flood and drought events of the ‘noughties’ led to the instigation of a number of government initiatives including studies, reports, consultations and legislation to address the unacceptable disruption to society that was occurring.
Making space for water
Arguably the first and most influential of these was the Defra ‘Making Space for Water’ initiative which started in 2004, running to 2008/9. A core component was a series of 15 ‘Integrated Urban Drainage Pilot Studies’ in England which clearly demonstrated how communities, local government and scientists could work together to create sustainable flood risk management outcomes.
They showed how the creation of surface water management plans, and the use of SUDS and above-ground flood routing could control the flow of water in urban environments more naturally. The practical experience of these pilots coupled with the legislation to deliver more effective, community based projects to prevent flooding has given us a practical and proven way of addressing flood risk at a macro and micro level.
The reform of water supply
Turning now to our second journey, the reform of our water supply and sewerage infrastructure. This has its origins over three decades ago with the creation of regional water authorities to manage the water supply and sewage disposal in our towns and cities. Privatisation of the water authorities in 1989 started a heavily regulated journey of asset creation and renewal to redress the endemic neglect of the water supply and sewage disposal infrastructure that existed prior to privatisation.
However, for the first ten years or so this was done largely in isolation from the wider urban and surface water collection infrastructure and it was only from 2000 that the water company investment programmes (AMPs) began to take notice of the interaction between water company assets and the communities and urban infrastructure that they served.
AMPs 4 and 5, spanning 2005 to 2015, in particular saw the water companies promote asset investment and maintenance programmes that were much more customer and environment facing. With the drive for greater innovation and efficiency called for by the water regulator, Ofwat, we are now seeing asset creation programmes that are often reliant upon delivery through partnerships with stakeholders, collaboration with the supply chain and outcome based.
The result has been lower cost capital investment delivering far greater benefits for the customer and environment alike than were achieved in the early years of privatisation. Typically now, a sewerage scheme will no longer simply be the replacement of a sewer or sewer network, but rather a blend of surface water management, separation of foul and surface water flows, public realm enhancements and community engagement.
This holistic approach to managing water flows in a wide area is now commonly promoted as ‘Catchment Management’, a term previously more associated with water resource and land management. However, it offers up great opportunities to integrate water asset planning with urban and environmental planning and huge potential to transform the way that we design and build our urban infrastructure and create inspirational places to live whilst enhancing the environment and protecting the most precious resource that we have – water!
These two journeys are therefore clearly converging and through the common approach of catchment management and community engagement we now have the opportunity to completely integrate the way we manage flood risk, with water supply, sewage disposal and creating greener, more pleasant environments in which to live and work, sustainably. The term ‘Making Space for Water’ clearly was quite visionary, because by making space for water in our communities through catchment management or rather integrated water management approaches, we can realise huge benefits for society.
Potential UK convergence
At present, our towns and cities are still largely dependent on the Victorian approach to the provision of water and sanitation, characterised by centralised collection, treatment and distribution of drinking water, followed by collection, treatment and discharge of sewage combined with rainwater. This relies on vast networks of pipes to distribute water and collect sewage, all running beneath our roads and transport routes, and all subject to aging, deterioration and damage.
Of course there was nothing wrong with the Victorian model and it has served us well for 100 years and more – but with increasing populations, 24/7 lifestyles and climate change leading to more intense rainfall coupled with prolonged dry periods, this infrastructure is increasingly unable to provide the levels of service that our developing society needs – and it leads to the waste of water that flows away to rivers at a time when the demands on our finite water resources are increasing.
The convergence of the two journeys may well therefore be Water Sensitive Urban Design. This is becoming a reality through the new technologies and materials that we are able to use. Powerful computer models are enabling us to process the many strands needed to design and create a built environment with water at its heart. Communication technologies are enabling us to introduce computer activated controls into our water management systems. The Building Information Management (BIM) revolution that we are seeing in the building industry has a key part to play in this, coupled with advances in water system modelling of flows both in pipes and overland.
Sustainable drainage systems, often the dream of environmentalists and scourge of water companies, are at last being seen as a viable way of draining urban environments, slowing down run-off flows and reducing flooding whilst at the same time creating greener and more pleasant environments to live in. And with the slowing down of run-off using storage, comes the opportunity to harvest the stored water for reuse at source – rather than importing vast quantities of water from one catchment, using it and then shipping it off to another, at huge cost both financially and in terms of the energy use.
Water sensitive urban design
This approach of collecting water locally and treating it to a standard appropriate for use is being increasingly known as ‘Decentralised Water Management’ or ‘Off Grid Water’. Whilst it might at first seem to be a radical move away from what we know as water supply and sewerage, it offers real opportunities to make the most of the water that we have, at a time when the need to conserve water and protect the environment in parallel is becoming ever more necessary.
There are many initiatives emerging all around the country to adopt water sensitive urban design approaches to new development, and the water companies are also becoming more interested in the decentralised approach to water management that is a core component of this. However, case studies in the UK are still hard to find although there are many examples of this approach in Europe, America and Australia.
The Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM), through our Urban Drainage Group and our Rivers and Coastal Group, is actively promoting this new sustainable approach to water management and urban design and has promoted several conferences in recent years in partnership with the Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA). CIRIA has recently published a guide to Water Sensitive Urban Design in the UK and together with CIWEM is providing the focus for water engineers, architects and planners alike to achieve the vision of putting water at the heart of our towns and cities.
Alastair Moseley is a water and environmental management consultant and director of H2O WEM Ltd. He is an Honorary Vice President of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management.
A call for Integrated Water Management
Guest Blog for: Engineering Natures Way
08 May 2011
I am delighted to have been invited to write this first “Blog” for the “Engineering Nature’s Way” initiative which I am sure will prove to be a very dynamic and popular forum. It will be an excellent vehicle for us to share thoughts, ideas and initiatives for the promotion of sustainable drainage techniques in the management of surface water and water resources.
I have decided to choose the theme of integrated water management for the water industry for my opening blog as I firmly believe that this is the biggest area of missed opportunity that needs addressing at the moment.
In my view the management of surface water in our urban and peri-urban environments is inextricably linked with water resources and the provision of water supplies to urban conurbations. It seems obvious to me that in this era of new technologies, creative architecture and integrated urban planning (not to mention the Flood and Water Management Act and forthcoming Water White Paper), that we should be building-in surface water capture and harvesting infrastructure both into new development and as part of reconstruction/refurbishment of existing development to offset local water demand.
Of course we still face the same challenges as to who is responsible for what when it comes to water management. Even in this new age of surface water management plans, river basin management plans and new and forthcoming legislation, it is not always obvious who exactly is responsible for the prevention of flooding.
Who is responsible?
Urban flooding is often as a result of a complex mix of pathways and responsibilities and it is rare to find a flooding incident where the cause is the sole responsibility of one organisation be it water company, local authority or landowner. There is an emerging recognition that for the majority of flooding incidents water companies are required to eliminate to meet the DG5 service level, partnership approaches are needed to solve them economically. Ironically after years of resisting the use of SUDS techniques, a number of the water companies in England and Wales now recognise their wider benefits to meet the needs of these complex situations. Even Ofwat are now interested!
SUDS offer the opportunity for water companies to engage more effectively with stakeholders and responsible bodies in complex flood management situations and they also give the opportunity to solve flooding more cost effectively, to improve customer engagement and demonstrate true commitment to community cohesion. This is because SUDS are very visible surface water management components with the potential to enhance the public realm and raise community morale, as well as giving the flexibility to direct water to places where it can be stored or dispersed with minimal risk to property, life or limb.
So if SUDS can offer this benefit to Water Company flood risk management obligations, could they as part of an integrated water management approach offer similar benefits to the provision of water in the home? We face a number of challenges to our water resources in the UK – growing population; water scarcity areas as a result of climate change; increasing water demand as a result of demographic and lifestyle changes to name but a few. These together with the challenges of maintaining or replacing an aging water supply infrastructure, keeping leakage under control and maintaining acceptable water pressures – mean that maintaining our commitment to providing clean water from the tap to meet all of our domestic needs is becoming increasingly challenging. We must also consider the burden on our precious rivers and ground waters to provide the water that we need together with the finite capacity of our reservoirs and the need for future storage at the expense of our countryside and rural communities. And all to supply clean drinking water direct to the tap, over 50% of which we happily dispose of through flushing toilets, washing cars and watering gardens!
Surface water capture
By using SUDS within an integrated water management approach to urban development we could significantly reduce the burden on our water supply infrastructure. SUDS in their broadest context embrace green roofs, underground storage, pervious road and footway surfaces as well as green space. They offer the potential to capture water for storage either at individual properties or central within urban communities. By incorporating surface water capture into urban development and using it as part of the overall water resource balance requirements we could have a major beneficial impact on water over-abstraction, reduced requirement for mains renewal, leakage reduction through reduced pressures as a result of reduced demand and reduced carbon emissions through reduced treatment and pumping requirements.
So who should be leading the agenda here?: Government (Defra or DCLG) in an effort to meet sustainability targets?; Local Authorities to meet their carbon commitments?; Water Companies to reduce their investment in water supply infrastructure as well as giving them the potential to extend their services to maintaining community based water harvesting systems?; The Environment Agency as part of a root and branch reform of water resource and ground water management?
Water White Paper
Or all working together in an integrated way?. It would be great to see this sort of thinking emerge in the Water White Paper which we will not see now until the end of the year. What I do know that we collectively in the water industry have the technologies and the know how to make initiatives such as this a reality. All we need is the vision and the collective leadership to make a paradigm shift in the way we manage and use water in our urban and peri-urban environments. I realise that this is not a panacea and that there are many hurdles to overcome and arguments to win. But let’s grasp the opportunity of new technologies, legislation and ways of working to make a real difference to the way that we source, provide, use and value water! I look forward to reading your views and seeing the Engineering Nature’s Way initiative take off to the benefit of our scientific and engineering community!