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Response | Water companies have been stuck in their ways

Throughout history, engineers have been challenged to deliver ‘better’ solutions but this has mostly resulted in the continued use of traditional drainage materials, such as pipe for conveyance, but rarely delivered innovation.

Martin lambley new crop

Martin lambley new crop

Martin Lambley

We have now reached a turning point. Where drainage is concerned, there is an increasing realisation that traditional pipe systems - moving water from collection to discharge - no longer work in modern developments. We need a better way to design drainage. Sustainable drainage has long been lauded as the solution and who could disagree? Dealing with water at, or near, the point of collection makes sense and reduces the impact on water companies’ already stretched assets.

It is refreshing to hear Nevil Muncaster talk of Yorkshire Water wanting to be disruptive to allow innovation. For too long water companies have been seen as traditionalists who dislike change.

This certainly seemed to be the case whenever the issue of sustainable drainage systems (SuDS)  has been discussed. Companies have hesitated to adopt SuDS components, even engineered ones, into their assets, although we are seeing this stance soften. I question whether a SuDS scheme is ever going to appear as a standalone AMP project, but Yorkshire Water’s approach to procurement for AMP7 offers a framework which serves implementing innovative drainage design well.

Supply Chain Objectives

As a material supplier, it is good to see some clearly defined objectives when developing solutions. The good news for Yorkshire Water, and other water companies, is that their development requirements, in the main, line up with the thinking around the design of sustainable drainage and the materials supply chain.  

Financial Benefits

SuDS has four core pillars on which the design focuses. The management of water quantity goes without saying, but good SuDS design should also improve water quality, provide amenity for communities and create biodiverse habitats.

There is substantial evidence that whole life costing of SuDS shows it offers financial benefits over traditional drainage solutions.

A report for the Welsh Government concluded that the capital costs of the SuDS solution were lower than the capital costs of the conventional solution in every case. SuDS replace large parts of traditional drainage with natural solutions which benefit the environment. Good SuDS provide amenities which improve the fabric of the environment in which we live.


Think beyond traditional construction and engineering requirements, get SuDS design right and the scheme delivers solutions that

benefit the environment and improve  the quality of life in communities water companies serve. What more could they want?

  • Martin Lambley is Wavin product manager, foul, utilities and water management


Produced in association with Wavin

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