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Digitisation of water pipeline

Optimising the delivery and management of a strategic water network

We’re working alongside Anglian Water to develop a digital twin of 100s of kilometres of interconnecting pipelines that are being built to deliver safe and clean water to residents for many years to come.

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Anglian Water

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Digital advisory

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The Strategic Pipeline Alliance - Anglian Water, Costain, Jacobs, Mott McDonald Bentley and Farrans.

Key benefits


maintenance and renewal costs

Improved efficiency and reduced cost of delivery

Significant reduction in embedded carbon

and energy consumption

Clearer insight

into operations


customer engagement

Anglian Water

Anglian Water is the largest water and wastewater company in England and Wales by geographic area. It supplies 4.3 million people and transports water across more than 27,500 square kilometres. The region it supplies is diverse, so the company has to move water from areas of surplus in Lincolnshire down to residents in the drier south and east. It also has to find ways to mitigate the impact of climate change and meet the demands of an increasing population if it’s to ensure water continues to flow.

Like all water companies, it’s set out how it will address these issues in its 25-year Water Resources Management Plan. The plan includes the creation of 100s of kilometres of interconnecting pipelines and associated infrastructure in the east of England. We’re working alongside Anglian Water and our partners, Jacobs, Mott McDonald Bentley and Farrans in a Strategic Pipeline Alliance (SPA) to develop a digital twin of the asset, which will be used throughout its lifecycle.

Key benefits

  • Improved efficiency and reduced cost of delivery as the pipeline can be assembled, installed, tested and commissioned in a virtual environment before the delivery phase begins
  • A better, more stable, 24/7 service to customers as the water company has clearer insight into their operations so they can plan for events such as drought or flooding and address maintenance issues before operations are affected
  • Reduced maintenance and renewal costs as issues can be identified before they affect operations, underpinned by proactive planning
  • Significant reduction in embedded carbon and energy consumption during operations
  • Enhanced engagement as customers can see how their behaviour affects water demand and supply.

The technology needed to develop a digital twin exists now but the pace of innovation in the technology sector means that it will continue to evolve over the next few years. For that reason, we’ve developed a maturity model to help us anticipate what a digital twin will look like in 10 years so we can ensure that what we put in place today also meets the needs of the future.

Interactive model of SPA office, digital twin created for inductions: Immersive control room created for digital twin engagement, creating a common user interface to visualise information and access applications.

Having formed a strategic partnership with Microsoft in 2019, Costain is leveraging Microsoft’s cloud-based software, Azure, which will integrate systems and business functions for enterprise data management, helping to leverage artificial intelligence and automate processes that will aid decision making and improve productivity for more efficient operations and maintenance. Costain’s knowledge of complex infrastructure delivery and client operations is ensuring the right physical asset and operational data is fed into the digital twin and that the projected benefits are realised.

We’re also aligning our activity to the needs of the people who will use the digital twin. That includes SPA partners, operational and even customer service teams.

Use of powerapps to visualise programme information

“The digital twin will help us design, optimise, deliver, test and commission the asset in a virtual environment before we start building it, which improves efficiency and reduces costs. And it will continue to benefit Anglian Water when water starts flowing through the pipeline as well. For example, it will help its team identify problems before they have an impact on operations, plan for scenarios such as drought and reduce its carbon emissions because it will always be operating at its best. Importantly, it will also give customers an insight into this vitally important infrastructure and help them understand that their demand for water has an impact on the entire network.”

Simon Roberts, head of digital and performance at Costain

The development of a digital twin is part of Anglian Water’s wider digital transformation plans and showcases the potential of this technology to the sector.

“Water networks are incredibly large and complex systems. Digital twins give us the opportunity to connect assets and equipment all the way along those systems, so we understand how much water we’re pumping into the networks, the level of water in storage reservoirs, and how we control the flow through pressures and valves. Having all of the sensors on the assets communicate with each other in an ecosystem of digital twins will ultimately allow us to provide an even better, optimised, 24/7 service to all of our customers.”

Matt Edwards, head of enterprise data at Anglian Water

A systems-based approach

We are using aspects of the systems-based approach to define capability roadmaps for the digital twin and to define, implement and develop the use cases to support, monitor, control and integrate the various technologies required to deliver the expected outcomes. Key is the development and integration of a Near Real Time Model (NRTM) that will include numerous data sources, such as electricity costs, water abstraction licensing, chemicals used and the resulting carbon to optimise the systems.

This is also a step towards the creation of an industry-wide digital twin, and ultimately, a national digital twin.

Discover more

How a digital twin can deliver immeasurable benefits without immeasurable costs

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Engineering Matters Podcast #73 How to build a digital twin

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Contact and social


Gerard Shore, Sector Director
0161 910 3444
[email protected]