How to maintain an iconic aqueduct: meticulous planning is everything

Matthew Watt, Project Manager, Asset Engineering
12 June 2017
Image of a bridge over a waterfall.
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People in Birmingham have relied on the Elan Valley Aqueduct to deliver safe, clean water to their homes since 1904. Today, more than 1.2 million people in the city still rely on the aqueduct to carry water almost 80 miles, from Elan Valley Reservoirs in Wales to their taps.

Getting access to inspect and maintain this one-of-a-kind infrastructure is a considerable logistical challenge – but an essential part of keeping services running smoothly.

To carry out our inspections, the aqueduct is drained of its supply and this, understandably, has a massive knock on effect on the rest of the network. We work closely with the client, Severn Trent Water, to overcome these challenges for months in advance to meticulously plan every detail. But it can often come down to a go or no-go decision on the day of the shutdown and we have to do what we can to make the most of the short window of opportunity.

This is our fourth successful shutdown

We’ve recently completed our fourth successful shutdown on the aqueduct. It took 129 people shifts to work inside 21 tunnel sections using 28 different access locations, which often means working in rural locations, during adverse weather and regularly with no mobile phone signal. Over three days, we mobilised a huge amount of resources to make sure that we had all the people, materials and technology we needed – and a backup of everything, just in case.

A smart approach is key

The key to getting this done right, safely and on time, is our smart approach of strategic and scenario planning, coupled with a specialised briefing to each and every member of the team. Complex planning operations are what we do best, utilising the best mix of technical, logistical and operational expertise from across our business. We use our in-house developed software apps, hosted on ruggedised tablets to capture data electronically and support on the spot decisions. During this shutdown we also collected concrete core samples which we’ll be analysing at our in-house laboratory to help make long-term maintenance and improvement recommendations.

Delivering a truly end-to-end service

This intelligent, end-to-end approach to asset management is a core component of Amey’s offering in the utilities market. We’re in a unique position where we can offer the frontline operational expertise, combined with more than 40 years’ experience in the water sector. And this is all underpinned by our industry leading consultancy, asset management and analysis capabilities. It’s what makes us different to many of our competitors and means we can deliver a truly end-to-end service to our clients.

The Elan Valley Aqueduct is more than an iconic asset; it holds a significant part of the total water supply on Severn Trent Water’s Strategic Grid. Projects like this take months of detailed planning and coordination to make sure that we help our clients meet their targets, and to ensure that millions of people are kept connected to this essential resource.

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