South West unveils groundbreaking treatment plant


This is the first of a potential series of advisory pieces on technology that will focus on truly significant developments. Please click HERE and indicate whether you would like to see more like it.

South West Water has recently unveiled an advanced water treatment system that arguably demonstrates the degree of innovation currently being demanded of the UK water sector by its regulators and policymakers to reduce cost and improve service to consumers.

The West Country firm has opened a treatment works serving Plymouth and its environs that uses ceramic membranes – a filtration technology that is amid the time-honoured debate over capital cost, operational savings and amenity that has accompanied innovations in so many area such as light bulbs, power generation and telephony.

South West Water’s £60million state-of-the-art treatment works uses a Dutch-designed and developed combination of water clean-up treatments that remove unwanted materials from source water to produce drinking water. The regime comprises a pretreatment stage to remove organic material before the water is filtered under pressure through microscopic pores in a ceramic membrane.

The pretreatment uses:

ion-exchange - which captures small unwanted molecules, typically those drawn from soil, onto resin beads which can be cleaned and reused; and

coagulation using chemicals to precipitate large organic molecules - for example arising from algae and other micro organisms.

The project is, according to South West, a world first and is attracting interest from other UK water companies as well as others.

The treatment processes were designed and developed by Dutch water technology company PWNT, and tested at a prototype facility in Plymouth from June 2013 until June 2015. Work started on the full Mayflower Water Treatment Worksplant in April 2016 and Mayflower is on schedule to become operational in autumn 2018.

The technology features SIX® suspended ion exchange, ILCA® inline coagulation and CeraMac® C90 ceramic membrane microfiltration. The plant is capable of treating up to 90Ml of water a day.

South West Water’s managing director, Stephen Bird, said: “The three key themes we have been impressing on all our visitors are: innovation – the use of new technology and a fresh approach to water treatment; collaboration – working in partnership and furthering our collective knowledge; and sustainability – this is a long-term investment, we’ll be producing renewable energy on site and using fewer chemicals and producing less waste than a conventional treatment works.”

• Mayflower Water Treatment Works will replace the treatment works at Crownhill in Plymouth, which was built in the 1950s and is reaching the end of its useful life. • Designer and consultancy, Arcadis, is the main design contractor, in partnership with consulting engineers Pell Frischmann. They are responsible for all the design work outside of the key treatment process • Infrastructure group, Balfour Beatty, is the main construction contractor, in partnership with Interserve, responsible for the construction of all infrastructure, buildings and pipelines for the new water treatment works. • The project is South West Water’s biggest single capital investment in its 2015-20 business plan

More information is available on the South West Water website or PWNT website: