Our business is intrinsically linked to the environment as we rely on it for our raw product, water. For this reason we do all we can to ensure there is a clean, resilient and sustainable supply available for current and future water customers whilst ensuring there is enough water available to support the needs of the environment too. Click 'Discover More' to find out more from our Head of Environment, Emma Goddard.


Our people are dedicated to providing you with the best service possible, whether they’re out in the field searching for leaks, managing our operational sites, testing the quality of your water or answering your queries. Each and every person within the business is dedicated to delivering you the safe reliable tap water supply you expect. Click 'Discover more' to find out more from our Head of HR, Sian Jenkins.

Innovation in the water industry involves cooperation, collaboration and ambitious goals to push the envelope of what is achievable. We have made innovation a key pillar for achieving our goals for the 2020 to 2025 period.

The challenges facing the water sector are well known, particularly due to increased press attention on pollution to the natural environment and leakage performance. In addition, the 2025 to 2030 will set a high standard for performance across water quality, supply, environmental and network; innovation and new ways of thinking will provide a springboard to achieve these challenging targets. Innovation will provide good opportunities to bring together internal colleagues across the business, and external staff across the sector to work towards a common goal.

Here at South East Water, our innovation strategy is continuously updated so that it is bespoke and suited to our needs. We aim to work with other companies to push the boundaries of innovation, whilst also communicating and learning of best practice that is used across the sector, ready for implementation.

Ofwat Innovation Fund is a mechanism provided by the regulator, allowing partner agreements between water and other companies, to tackle the biggest challenges facing the sector.

Ofwat’s Innovation Fund has continued this year, with current applications being the third iteration of the scheme. We have been awarded three exciting schemes as a contributing partner. Along with ongoing Ofwat projects, this means we are now involved with a total of 11 Ofwat projects including leading on CatchmentLIFE, an environment-focused software package that will enable collection of the impacts of habitat degradation on biodiversity. These schemes highlight our commitment to improvement and innovation, and strengthen our track record as major contributors to innovation.

Some of the schemes that we are working on through the Ofwat fund include:

  • ‘Defusing the Nitrate time-bomb’ – The project is developing modelling software that can predict concentrations of nitrate throughout chalk ground so that land use options can be tested to select those that deliver efficient nitrate reduction. This will reduce treatment costs and energy consumption and help to protect habitats and biodiversity. Led by Portsmouth Water, we are one of the key partners for this project.
  • Catchment Systems Thinking Cooperative (CaSTCo) is a partnership led by United Utilities between the Rivers Trust, twelve water and sewerage companies including ourselves, as well as academia and environmental charities – it has been awarded £7.1 million to revolutionise the way crucial data about England and Wales’ water environments are gathered and shared, in particular on the health of the nation’s rivers.
  • Tap Water Forensics: High Throughput Sequencing is a project which is developing the use of genetic sequencing in drinking water treatment. Unlike current tests, genetic sequencing can determine all the bacterial species present in water. This will significantly improve the speed and accuracy of water quality investigations. The project is led by Severn Trent Water in partnership with The Centre of Ecology and Hydrology, Anglian Water, United Utilities, Welsh Water, Thames Water, ourselves and Southern Water
  • Supporting customers in vulnerable circumstances is a project which uses behavioural science to apply ethnographic principles, to understand who the water sector’s consumers really are. The project aims to understand consumer engagement needs and intends to re-engage consumers as trusted sources of information for the sector. The project is led by Severn Trent Water in partnership with the Consumer Council for Water (CCW), South East Water, Thames Water, and United Utilities.

Further details of the various funds can be found on the Ofwat Innovation in Water Challenge website.

Existing innovations not yet implemented may hold the key to further improvements. We are always looking to improve to provide the best possible service to our customers.

We are utilising external expertise to share knowledge on proven technologies which may be useful for the challenges we have identified.

In preparation for the 2025 to 2030 period (and in the final years of our 2020 to 2025 period), we have identified 14 areas of focus for the next few years, ranging from net zero goals, to improved asset health monitoring and nature-based solutions.

This approach enables us to target appropriate technologies, scoping out short trials which may either ‘fail-fast’ or succeed against initially agreed objectives, before expanding to a wider rollout programme should the innovation prove successful and useful.

In addition, we utilise other avenues for innovation, including but not limited to, Spring Centre of Excellence, UKWIR and ISLE technologies, which provide us with further solutions which could be of interest.

Innovation at the heart of our present and our future

Innovation is at the heart of how we seek to deliver great customer service as well as continually looking to improve our operations to deliver great outcomes for our customers. With this in mind, we are exploring further ways to increase collaboration across the water sector and engage with our local communities to listen and deliver the service that our customers expect. These ideas will be built into the heart of our planning for the future, whether that’s through the 25 Year Environment Plan, our PR 24 Business Plan, or elsewhere.