Skip to main content

Hi-tech GPS trackers have helped the UK’s largest water company track down companies that illegally take water from the network, protecting the supply against those who use water without being billed for supply, writes Thames Water


In an industry-leading move, Thames Water has worked with standpipe provider Aquam Water Services (which merged with Orbis Intelligent Systems in 2020) to develop digital capability on standpipes, devices used to safely extract water from the network without the risk of contaminating the supply.

The devices allow Thames Water to track where water is being taken from the network and identify connections that have been made without permission. This innovation means investigators are no longer required to track down offences in person as they happen.


Claire Rumens, Thames Water’s illegal connections manager, said: “Adding this digital capability to standpipes has been a game changer for us, as it gives us greater visibility of where water is being taken from the network and allows us to identify unauthorised use quickly and efficiently. We are working with the wider sector to share our knowledge and insight as we all try to make best use of our precious resources.

“We will always strive to uncover illegal use on our network as unauthorised connections to the network are not fair to customers who comply fully with our requirements.”


Standpipes are rented out to companies to allow them to legally extract water from the network. The digital devices are each registered to a water company and only devices that are registered to Thames Water can be used on the company’s network.


Kevin Brook, Orbis Intelligent Systems’ director, said: “As an innovation-driven partner of UK utilities, we are incredibly proud to have worked with Thames Water to develop standpipe digital capability.


“The smart systems provide accurate real-time data to measure water extractions and pipeline flow data to support water network management. It is just another example of how data-driven technology is giving water companies the tools to proactively manage their assets and enabling the water sector’s smart transformation.”


Orbis has found over 550 illegal abstractions in the UK in the last 12 months, through use of digital remote data. More than 300 new customers have come on board to account for water abstracted. Digital information has helped increase the amount of water accounted from hydrants by 15% in the last six months, simply by replacing analogue with digital information.


Orbis Intelligent Systems and Aquam Water Services merged in 2020 under the ownership of Cadence Equity Partners. Orbis is a US-registered company based in California, supplying products and services to the US market. Research & development and manufacturing for the European market is based at the head office of UK-registered sister company Aquam Water Services.