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The UK’s water environment is under huge pressure from population growth, climate change and pollution. With 85% of English rivers currently failing to meet the Water Framework Directive’s requirements for ecological health, it’s estimated that as many as three rivers in four could pose a risk to human health.

Confronted with challenges of this scale and complexity, the water industry needs innovative solutions to protect the health of our rivers and ensure clean water for future generations.

This is why Northumbrian Water, working in close collaboration with Cognizant, is embarking on an exciting journey funded by Ofwat, the Water Services Regulation Authority for England and Wales. The goal? To revolutionise insights into river health and water quality using state-of-the-art artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies.

By leveraging Cognizant's expertise and the resources provided by Ofwat, Northumbrian Water is poised to make significant strides in analysing and understanding waterbody data at scale – and using the insights derived from this rich pool of knowledge to address the multiple challenges facing our waterways.

Data, data everywhere…

Reliable waterbody data is in short supply. It’s also widely distributed. And while progress is being made, today’s unprecedented focus on waterbody health monitoring means that gathering, analysing and understanding data at such scale is enormously resource-intensive, costly and complicated.

These issues obstruct effective water catchment management planning – and impede decision-making processes and actions geared towards improving the health of the water environment and boosting value-for-money for customers and wider society.

"Our vision is to use data insights to address one of the biggest challenges we face – reducing river pollution." Nigel Watson, Chief Information Officer at Northumbrian Water

To help overcome these challenges, one of the key objectives for Northumbrian Water is to develop an approach that can aggregate and leverage waterbody data from various sources, including environmental sensors and satellite imagery.

This data-driven approach will be key to developing the comprehensive understanding of river health trends and pollution patterns needed for Northumbrian Water to optimise its investments and forge targeted partnerships that can tackle river pollution more effectively.

The power of many…driven by innovation

Northumbrian Water’s project marks a real turning point in how the industry deals with waterbody health and sustainable water management at scale. It’s the first time that such a broad range of stakeholders and partners have come together with a single shared goal: to really understand what’s going on – and then use those insights to develop the solutions that are so urgently needed.

The bottom line is that without effective collaboration outside of the water sector, existing catchment monitoring and analysis methods simply cannot scale as rapidly, or as efficiently, as they must.

What’s underpinning and enabling this unique collaboration? Access to data and AI models for all stakeholders. Stig Martin Fiskå, Global Head of Cognizant Ocean, explains why this will be so important: "Innovating together with the wider ecosystem, we will give our rivers and shores a digital voice…our anticipated collaboration with Northumbrian Water aims to help improve the quality and biodiversity of the rivers in the Northeast of England and lay a strong foundation for others water systems organizations to leverage our expertise for the same."

Fast-tracking progress to a cleaner future

As the project progresses, Cognizant will be leading the development of the AI and ML models used to unlock vital insights – helping Northumbrian Water and its partners to take full advantage of existing data, optimise the collection of new data and ‘squeeze’ as much knowledge from it as possible.

But it will not be working in isolation. Instead, the Cognizant team will be working collaboratively with experts in sensor management, sustainability and water management to ensure solutions’ direct relevance to real-world challenges from the outset.

To accelerate progress towards sustainable water management at scale, all the models and insights developed by the project team will be made freely available and open-source. By opening up access in this way, Northumbrian Water and Cognizant hope to accelerate innovation and fast-track society’s advance to a future where clean water and thriving ecosystems go hand in hand.

As we look ahead, it's clear that partnerships like these will play a crucial role in addressing the complex challenges of environmental sustainability – thereby helping to ensure a brighter, cleaner and safer future for our rivers and our planet.

To learn more about how Cognizant works within the blue economy, have a look at our Ocean pages.

Naren Kumbeswaran

Client Partner & Sector Lead, UK&I, Cognizant

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