Northumbrian Water is rolling out the use of data analytics to pinpoint water poverty hotspots across its supply areas after a successful trial.
The company said it began testing the idea – using anonymised, location-specific data and leading edge techniques to identify areas where people are most likely to be in water poverty –
at the end of 2018 on a sample of data. Key indicators used include social demographics and payment history, with factors such as the frequency of payments and fluctuations in the amounts paid. The first results were c80% accurate – a level that is expected to improve as the data model continues to learn and develop.
Northumbrian said it is now applying the method to its wider customer database of more than 2m accounts. The resulting information will be used to target information and direct efforts to encourage customers to sign up to the company's Priority Services Register and receive support, which could include reduced bills and support with repayment of arrears.
The “water poverty risk map” will be updated every month. Northumbrian said developing its own process in this way will save £50,000 normally spend on buying information from credit reference agencies. Moreover that reducing water poverty will cut bills for all as it will also reduce bad debt which other customers fund.
Northumbrian has pledged to eliminate water poverty - defined as where someone is spending more than 3% of their household income after housing costs on water and sewerage services - in its operational areas of the North East and Essex & Suffolk by 2030.