Inside Severn Trent ‘nerve centre’ where teams working 24/7 this winter to spot potential leaks
14th December 2023
They are the Severn Trent teams working through the winter nights to spot potential leaks while customers sleep - and keeping water supplies running to millions of homes.
Network Control, based at the company’s Coventry HQ, plays a crucial role in tackling incidents and maintaining supply for 4.8m customers across the Severn Trent region, including Birmingham, Worcestershire, Staffordshire and Nottinghamshire.
The department operates 24hrs a day for 365 days a year – including Christmas Day - with specialist teams reacting to leaks and incidents, while also using the latest data and technology to plan ahead to keep all households on tap.
This is aided by a state-of-the-art telemetry system, which helps detect tell-tale drops in pressure on the network of 97,000km of pipes, signalling leakage alarms in Network Control. Emergency repair teams can then immediately be directed to the scene of an issue, feeding updates back.
Other teams in Network Control also work on water distribution and planning. That involves moving supplies around the system to meet high demand in any particular area, or because of extreme weather issues like the often freezing conditions of winter or recent storms like Babet and Ciaran.
Pip Goodman is a Water Resources and Production Manager in Network Control, a department of hundreds of highly-skilled people. She said: “It’s a very exciting place to work because no two days are the same. If there is a problem on the network, the teams help deal with it very quickly.
“We also provide some of the planning and intelligence needed for others in the company. A fall in pressure may have sparked an alarm in one area of the network, so we would then alert other teams to tackle the issue - which can take place day or night.
“We could be having a very busy day in Network Control but the customer would never see that. Success for us is the customer not knowing there has been an issue behind the scenes.”
Network Control is like the nerve centre of Severn Trent, with huge TV monitors taking centre stage, containing latest information on incidents, issues and supplies. The constant ring of telephones in the background adds to the busy, vibrant atmosphere.
Extreme weather events can create extra demand on the teams, who come together to deal with any emergency issues which may arise.
Pip said: “Big storms can cause our rivers to rise. We can't compromise on water quality so we move water around on our grid to ensure everyone has enough water.
“Winter means we can face different challenges because of sudden drops and rises in temperatures, but we are here 24/7 to deal with them.”
Pip began her career at Severn Trent seven years ago, having graduated from university of East Anglia with a degree in Environmental Science. In fact, her original passion was something that took her from the UK to the USA – to study earthquakes.
She said: “I lived in Louisiana for some time to study the impact earthquakes can have on environmental land management. It was really interesting to look at the risk management involved.”
On returning home, Pip later landed a job at Severn Trent in Network Control and worked her way up through the ranks to become a Water Resources and Production Manager.
She previously worked in the ‘reactive’ side of Network Control, but she and her team now deal mainly with the water planning, which can helping the management of reservoirs and boreholes supplies.
She said: “Typically, my team will be involved in strategic planning, including monitoring reservoir levels.
“We might decide we have too much water in the south but not enough in the north, so we make changes to ensure that is addressed.”
Up-to-the-hour weather forecasts are a key piece of information for Pip and Network Control, particularly during the winter.
Hot summer days signal different set of challenges yet, despite the issues of global warming, Severn Trent has not introduced a hosepipe ban for almost 30 years.
Pip said: “Last year was a really hot summer, including a 40-degree day. But, again, we did not have a hosepipe ban in our region which takes meticulous planning.”
So what is the best part of the job? Pip said: “It’s the diversity of the work and the fact we are helping provide customers with the best water we can.
“It does make me feel proud, especially when you come up with a solution to a problem - but that all takes place behind the scenes.
“Customers turn on the tap and enjoy their usual high standard of drinking water – they have no idea what may have gone in to getting the water there for them. And that for us is the mark of success.”
*To find out more on winter advice from Severn Trent, including tips on lagging pipes and preventing drain blockages from fats, oils and greases, visit here
**If you do run into problems this winter, with either slow drains or a blocked sewer which is Severn Trent’s responsibility, you can report it at www.stwater.co.uk or by calling 0800 783 4444.
***Severn Trent also offers a webchat service online via the website and you can contact us on Twitter via @stwater.