Ofwat backs highway water management innovation


A permeable paving slab that can absorb excess rainwater and a new method of repairing leaks beneath the road surface are among 20 finalists in a £4m competition run by Water regulator Ofwat for innovators from outside the water sector.

Kiacrete, developed by a team from Imperial College London, uses a material consisting of concrete with a bespoke plastic drainage structure to efficiently drain stormwater.

The gradual release prevents the ground beneath the slabs becoming overwhelmed and water-logged. The product could also reduce the risk of sewage overflows, which occur after heavy rainfall.

Kiacrete being tested at White City, London

The solution is one of 20 finalists in Ofwat’s Water Discovery Challenge, a £4m competition for innovators outside of the water sector with ‘bold and ingenious ideas that can help solve complex challenges'.

Another finalist is a filtration device that enables roadside drains to catch particulate pollution that would otherwise be washed into the ocean following heavy rainfall in cities. The system, from Guerilla Technologies, will capture particulate matter - containing microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems.

A winning entry from Resimac Limited focuses on the development of a hybrid sewer rehabilitation solution combining existing spray lining techniques with cured-in-place pipe technology to deliver a fully structural, spray-in-place rehabilitation solution for deteriorating rising sewer mains to reduce bursts and improve network resilience.

Alalea Kia, project lead for Kiacrete and UKRI Future Leaders Fellow at Imperial College London, said: ‘Cities face an increasing challenge from floods due to the impermeability of urban surfaces such as roads, pavements and garden patios, meanwhile extreme weather events such as heavy storms are increasing in frequency due to climate change.

‘Our permeable paving solution will increase cities’ resilience to heavy flooding, improving conditions for adjacent industries including transport and other utilities, and ultimately future-proofing our urban areas by turning them into water-smart cities.’

David Black, CEO, Ofwat said: ‘The finalist ideas address numerous core concerns for the future of the sector – from future-proofing cities to anticipating the impact of climate change, and we’re excited to help bring these ideas to life.'

The finalists will be awarded up to £50,000 from the Ofwat Innovation Fund, as well as capacity-building support, to develop their ideas, along with expert support and mentoring from water companies.

Up to 10 will go on to win up to £450,000, as well as further support, to further develop and test their ideas, including delivering pilots.

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