Northumbrian Water - Making water greener

Sustainable Products and Services Award 2014, Big Tick, Reaccredited, 2015, 2016.

Northumbrian Water Group is challenging traditional high-energy engineering solutions to find environmental alternatives with the aim of being the greenest water company and securing water resources for its customers

Social and environmental impacts

  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions from 281.7 kilotonnes CO2 equivalent (2008/09) to 214.8 kilotonnes CO2 equivalent (2012/13).
  • Worked at catchment level with farmers to trial biobeds to help them apply pesticides in a way that prevents pollution of water resources or harming wildlife.
  • Turned sewage into energy by harvesting methane from sewage sludge to create electricity.

Business impacts

  • Turned energy intensive processes into ones that use no power or generate power.
  • Made water savings of 2.524 Ml/d for 2012/13 against a combined water efficiency target of 1.86 Ml/d.
  • Maintained 100% sewage treatment works compliance - an industry leading performance achieved despite extreme weather.

Northumbrian Water Group logo

We’re serious about being the greenest water company, being recognised as an industry leader and leading by example. We’re finding innovative approaches to become more efficient and effective such as being the first to use all the sludge from our sewage treatment plants to make power from poo. We’re also the first worldwide to use reed beds for water treatment sludge rather than energy and chemicals, and are trialling biobeds to help farmers apply pesticides in a way that doesn’t pollute water resources or harm wildlife. Sustainability is at the heart of our vision and we’re proud to be leading the industry in seeking innovative new ways of working.

- Heidi Mottram OBE,
Chief Executive Officer, Northumbrian Water Group
Northumbrian Water is challenging the water industry's traditional high energy engineering approach through developing innovative, sustainable alternatives in its operations. These operations tap into the natural water-cycle to collect, treat and deliver safe drinking water and remove and clean it again after use.

Northumbrian Water’s assets and people across its regions impact the environment in everything it does, so the aim for the company is to protect and improve it for the benefit of all to secure the future of its water supply. 

The company's vision, to ‘be the national leader in the provision of sustainable water and waste water services’ is underpinned by five strategic themes, including protecting and enhancing the environment.

To fulfil this aim, Northumbrian Water set an ambitious carbon reduction target of 35% by 2020. To achieve this it is replacing energy intensive processes with innovative ones that can deliver real savings in energy, cost and contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. 

Northumbrian Water is the first company to generate energy from sewage sludge, using thermal hydrolysis advanced anaerobic digestion (AAD); turning an energy intensive process into one that produces energy.

It is also the first company worldwide to trial, prove and use reedbed technology for water sludge treatment rather than rely on ‘safe’ traditional energy intensive engineering solutions. A 4.7ha scheme is now established, providing an environmentally sustainable solution which has a reduced whole life cost and also acts as a natural habitat.

Northumbrian Water is also undertaking cutting edge research into the use of DNA fingerprinting of sewage bugs and developing clean fuel for the future.

Its approach to embed environmental sustainability has also enhanced its reputation amongst stakeholders, and further engaged its employees, a significant business benefit. Employee turnover is 4.79% against an industry average 9.4%, with 96.9% attendance rates, and an employee satisfaction index rating of 75% in 2013.