United Kingdom - In 2015, an unexpected event prevented the supply of drinkable water to over 300,000 homes in the north west of England. This cost millions of pounds and impacted United Utilities relationship with their customer. With customer service expectations increasing at the same time as the growing threat from climate change, population growth and asset deterioration, Ofwat has made resilience a key focus area for the water industry. But how do we protect customers and continue to improve quality of life?
In 2015, United Utilities detected cryptosporidium in the final water leaving Franklaw Water Treatment Works, leading to a boil water notice being issued affecting 700,000 people. The incident made national news. Occurrences such as this drove the industry to build resilience, and there was growing pressure from the regulator for water companies to better understand their risks to enable more informed conversations with customers about resilience.
A common way of measuring resilience was needed. Working with United Utilities, we developed an innovative approach that puts customers at the heart of investment decisions. Our approach provides greater transparency of risk to visualise consequence, likelihood and vulnerability and identify areas to improve resilience.
Central to our collaboration was the drive to answer one question; how do you measure resilience consistently to enable industry wide comparison, support customer engagements and investment decisions?
Our answer was a critical shift in resilience thinking in the UK. We wanted to move the industry away from high level boardroom assumptions or time-consuming physical assessments that produced capital-led solutions, to a relatively quick assessment of resilience quantified by the number of households at risk. We were able to draw on our digital expertise to visualise the outputs. This enables the consideration of broader solutions beyond capital solutions. We developed a report, Measuring Resilience in the Water Industry, and ultimately proposed an approach the water industry could adopt moving forward.
Overall, our methodology would enable quantification and comparison of resilience and would help our clients better understand their relative risk exposure, and regulators and stakeholders could challenge company performance, driving industry best practice.
We have helped United Utilities lead the way with an approach to assessing and improving operational resilience, influencing the water industry and beyond. Our efforts have been well received by Ofwat, who referenced this in its PR19 consultation document.
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