Open data

Our approach to open data is developing and helping to unlock innovative solutions that help customers and the environment.

What is open data?

Open data is data that is publicly available to access and use. Improving open data has benefitted a number of industries outside of the water sector, but these are yet to be fully realised for water companies and their customers. For example, Transport for London openly releases their data which has enabled software developers to present information in novel ways to travellers.

The water and sewerage sector is also data rich and the ambition within the industry is to make this data openly available to:

  • increase transparency
  • foster innovation
  • improve efficiency.

Industry regulator Ofwat has found widespread public support for water companies adopting an open data approach.

How our open data journey started

In 2012 Wessex Water was at the forefront of open data within the water sector by sharing bathing water information through the Coastwatch app. Those strong foundations have continued with:

The Wessex Water Marketplace

Launched in April 2019, the Wessex Water Marketplace is the online platform we use to share our data and is at the heart of our open data approach. Discover some of the data we have shared to date.

We also use the Wessex Water Marketplace to pose specific challenges to the market and that often involves sharing relevant data. The idea is to enable the best, innovative ideas to emerge, whether from within the company or outside. Challenges cover activities across the business – from reducing foaming at some of our water recycling centres to improving our water quality customer contacts.

Our approach delivers better value for our customers and the environment, through lower cost or delivering wider outcomes as well as helping to offer an alternative to an asset-focused approach.

Find out more about the challenges we have run so far on the Marketplace.

Marketplace Data Icons Graphic

Case study: Transforming our use of storm overflow data

One of our early Marketplace challenges looked at data from monitors at storm overflows. These monitors measure the level at the overflow and trigger an alarm when it is discharging. However, the overflows are designed to discharge if needed during storm events and sometimes the associated alarms can hide information about overflows operating when they shouldn’t be.

Therefore, we wanted to be able to locally identify overflows with levels outside the expected parameters for weather conditions at the time. We launched this challenge to the market in October 2019, sharing around two years of historical data for 89 monitor locations. We also shared run-stop data for the relevant sewage pumping stations (SPS), showing when the pumps turn on and off. We asked interested parties to process our data in their systems to demonstrate their abilities.

After receiving responses from 16 companies and several stages of shortlisting, we trialled software from three companies for around three months in summer 2020. Following a subsequent tender process, we signed a contract with StormHarvester to support us for three years and monitor up to 1,700 devices across our network.

As we roll the solution across our network we are routinely identifying network anomalies such as blockages that if left unchecked could lead to pollutions. In the 12 months to July 2023, over 140 anomalies have been detected allowing for proactive maintenance of our sewer network and pollution prevention.

Openly sharing this business challenge and the associated data has unlocked an innovative solution that helps safeguard the environment.

An ongoing commitment

We are committed to building on this strong foundation to deliver an open data approach.

We are expanding the range of data available on the Wessex Water Marketplace. An example of this is our current initiative to share data underpinning some of the performance figures that we report each year. This suite of performance-related data will grow over the coming months.

We believe that greater transparency will grow trust and confidence in the company and the industry, and that increasingly open access to data will drive improvements within the sector and beyond.

All our open data work is underpinned by governance procedures that consider factors such as business and customer data security to ensure highly sensitive information is safeguarded.

We are keen not just to grow the quantity of available data but to ensure we publish it in an easy to use format with relevant supporting information.

We’re working to implement principles set out by the Open Data Institute as well as recommendations made in Ofwat and PwC’s assessment of open data in the water industry. This includes improving machine-readability of existing and future data sets and developing clear licencing to promote the use of our data.

We cannot transform our approach to data in isolation; collaboration among water companies is key. Stream is a water sector initiative to unlock the potential of water data to benefit customers, society and the environment. As a member of Stream, we are working with other water companies, organisations from legal, energy and technology sectors, and stakeholders including the CCW and Ofwat, to support this innovation.

How can I get involved?

Meeting room for a presentation