Tamsin Lishman’s long career in the energy industry has given her a wealth of experience in asset management and digital technologies in oil and gas. Now at Northumbrian Water Group (NWG), she is excited about digital’s potential to shake up the water industry.

Why is digitalisation going to be important to the water industry?
I’m really excited about how we embrace the use of digital techniques in our assets. We’re adopting condition-based monitoring and are already using data and digital techniques to look at when a pump is about to fail. 

For new construction projects, we make sure we have a digital model of our assets – a digital twin – which is something anyone building something in the 21st century should aim to have. With a digital twin we can understand the current state of our assets and model for the long term. We're able to move from fixing things when they fail, to fixing things proactively and using modern digital techniques such as condition-based monitoring, preventative maintenance and predictive maintenance.

This highlights the value of data. But looking after assets is about more than just data. Having a big pool of data needs to go hand in hand with engineering risk assessment and ownership. I’m a believer in engineering ownership and knowledge of our asset base, supported by data and digital. So we need our engineers to collaborate with operations, maintenance projects and IT. Technology works best when you're solving a real business problem that's got value.

What are the biggest challenges for NWG and its regions? Where do you think investments are needed the most?
Water and the water industry will be at the forefront of the impacts of changing climate. Whether that's from more extreme weather events and also from reducing our own carbon footprint.

In terms of climate change, we've got a really interesting geographical mix: from Northumbria in the north, with flooding events, to Essex and Suffolk in the south, which will be more affected by drought and high temperatures. So across our assets we’ve got the full range of climate change impacts. How do we provide clean water and manage our local and global environmental impact well?

For our strategic plan we consulted heavily with our customers, and one of the things they wanted us to do was to invest for climate resilience. However, in our final regulatory allowance some of these key projects were removed. So one of the things we're talking to the Competition and Markets Authority about is bringing back those projects that are around providing resilience – particularly in a changing climate.