Andy Cruse of ERIKS considers the challenges posed to reservoir operators by the weather, a new scheme from the HSE, and natural wear and tear, and looks at ways in which effective maintenance can boost efficiency

After this summer’s exceptionally wet weather there have been a number of scare stories in the national media about the safety of many of our dams, with claims that safety problems are often unreported. In July, the Independent on Sunday reported that safety checks are currently overdue at 51 large reservoirs and that the owners of 40 more sites have failed to meet official deadlines to carry out safety improvements.

Although the implication in these stories is that it is the structural integrity of dams, especially the older embankment types, which poses a threat, they overlook the fact that most issues revolve around the function, reliability and safety of control systems. In particular, the maintenance of infrastructure assets is crucial for a secure supply of water, public health and environmental protection.

Cost recovery scheme

The challenge for water companies is in meeting this requirement at a time when weather conditions have become increasingly unpredictable, and when spending on flood defences and infrastructure generally is being cut back. Another pressure is the new Health and Safety Executive (HSE) cost recovery scheme for inspections and interventions that came into force on 1st October this year. These Regulations will authorise the HSE to recover its costs from those found to be in material breach of health and safety law. 

Until now, the costs of investigating businesses and organisations that break health and safety laws have been covered by the taxpayer, but the proposed new Fee for Intervention (FFI) scheme will recover costs at an hourly rate of £124.

The negative result, suspected by critics of the scheme, may be that the term ‘material breach’ could be too broadly interpreted and that inspectors will be set fee generation targets.  However, the positive result of this initiative is that businesses will be encouraged to put matters right quickly if they suspect a problem, or make more robust plans to prevent problems from developing at the outset. One investment that will achieve the latter is to employ techniques such as predictive maintenance, which can be used to reduce risk, engineering time and on-going maintenance costs.

Pump action plan

An on-going assessment of pump condition via a pump action plan will boost operating efficiency and this is where condition monitoring can help ensure the benefits of reduced pump wear, reduced energy consumption and increased productivity.  Monitoring pumps in this way can identify any leaks or potential improvements in flow control, rather than the use of throttling or by-pass valves.  It can also identify whether any process interruptions are occurring during operation; if so, pumping can in future be minimised by the use of simple power on/off control devices.  

In addition to continuous monitoring, a pump action plan enables the implementation of a maintenance programme to establish a repair and replace schedule.  The replacement of leaking seals, the application of efficiency/wear resistant coatings and the investigation and rectifying of faults such as cavitation can extend pump life considerably and avoid costly and unnecessary pump replacement.  Pump maintenance information can then be recorded to help identify future problems and justify the need for the replacement of faulty pumps.

Maintenance of your infrastructure will not only protect public health and the environment, it will prevent inefficiency. By using a trusted partner with a knowledge and experience in water and waste treatment, you can reduce your engineering time and lower your on-going maintenance. With the capability to provide efficient maintenance at this level to meet the stringent KPI targets of service delivery, a service provider such as ERIKS can offer a range of solutions for water and wastewater processing that work towards a sustainable future.


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