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Largest ever UK trial of smart water butts taking place in Lancashire

Posted: 19/04/23

United Utilities 13th April 2023: To read the original, click here.

Around 30 homes and the local primary school in Forton have received smart water butts and are taking part in a 12 month trial with the aim of reducing flooding in the area and stopping sewers becoming overloaded during periods of heavy rainfall.

Forton has a historical issue of surface water flooding in the Spring Vale area.  A lot of this is caused by ‘urban creep’ with an increase in patios, extensions and driveways leading to more rainwater run-off.  Most of this rainwater enters combined sewers, increasing the number of times the overflow comes into operation at the local watercourse.

SDS Limited has created the smart water butts and has installed them in the village.  They run by solar power and contain AI computers that allow United Utilities to understand how much rainwater has been collected and then release it back to the sewer network before it’s likely to rain.  This frees up more room to collect the amount of rain that’s forecast and prevent any excess from entering the sewage system.

Since being installed, early findings have shown that the smart water butts were up to 75 times as effective as a standard, well installed water butt, and could save up to 30,000L of water per installation from entering the sewer network during peak demand. That’s the equivalent of slowing the water from 166 bath tubs per water butt!

Forton Primary school had three jumbo sized smart water butts installed and representatives from the water company have also visited to educate children about the water cycle, flooding and water resources.

Lorna Boase, Head Teacher at Forton Primary School, said: “We’re excited to be a part of the trial, it’s a great opportunity for us to play our part in helping reduce the amount of surface water that enters the sewers in the village.  The children found the session with United Utilities really fascinating and now have a better understanding of the water cycle and flooding and why it’s important to manage what they use at home.”

Johnny Phillips, Surface Water Strategy Development Manager for United Utilities, said: “We’re delighted to be launching this trial in Forton.  Having looked at a number of areas, we think the smart water butts will make a real difference in the village and help to increase capacity in our sewer network and deliver local environmental improvements and the early findings are backing this up.

“The issue of ‘urban creep’ is one that is growing and so innovative approaches like the use of smart water butts will play their part in reducing peak flows into the sewer network.  If the trial is successful then there is the potential to roll this out further to other areas where it would be beneficial in the North West.”

A further 75 smart water butts will also be installed in Wrea Green as part of the scheme.

The company is also looking at other projects to help remove surface water from entering the sewer network in Forton such as removing misconnections and working with the local authority to better manage land drainage in the area.