Yorkshire Water to publish majority of operational and service data by 2020 – aims to create “citizen regulation”

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Corporate and financial Open data


In a bid to increase transparency and boost operational performance, Yorkshire Water has announced that it aims to release the majority of its operational and service data by 2020.

The company plans to start with critical areas such as leakage and pollution with the first major data release being all leakage data for the last 12 months, which will be published in March this year.

It will then engage with the public and data users to see what they would like to see published next. Following this consultation, it will commit to a two-year programme of data releases until it reaches the open by default position.

The firm is the first in the water sector to commit to an ‘open by default’ data approach and has partnered with the Leeds Open Data Institute (ODI) Leeds to make it happen. The only exceptions to the open data policy will be personal identifiable data and information with security implications.

By becoming ‘open by default’, the firm aims to empower citizens to scrutinise data and create a new cohort of “citizens regulators” holding the company to account on its performance. In the future, customers may have the ability to create their own service dashboards, tracking the company’s performance in areas which matters to them the most.

It also aims to stimulate innovation, by encouraging outside experts to look at operational performance and identify new and innovative solutions to traditional industry issues.

It is hoped that in the future, this could help spur the development of data tools such as water use apps which could be used to incentivise customers to reduce future consumption.

Working with Leeds ODI, the company will hold a series of events to kick start the open data process. On March 23, a workshop will give users their first look at the leakage data and will also ask them what Yorkshire Water’s priorities for future data release should be. This will coincide with the company publishing the full data set for its leakage performance for the last year on the Data Mill North. Yorkshire Water will profile its programme at the Leeds Digital Festival in April and will then hold a full hackathon in May working with the released data.

The hackathon will allow people who would not normally access the data to work with it, providing insights, innovation and new ideas and could aid to quicker detection and resolution of leakage.

Richard Flint, chief executive at Yorkshire Water, said: “By sharing data sets through Leeds ODI we want to encourage data scientists and analysts to become something akin to citizen auditors who are able to openly and freely monitor our performance and hold us to account.

“By 2020, it is our aim that all our operational data will be available for public scrutiny. This approach will also expand intelligence of our infrastructure, helping us to predict and prevent incidents, such as leakage, which is what our customers demand and deserve.

We also want to collaborate with other agencies and authorities in the region to see if our data can be combined with theirs to benefit the communities we all serve.”

Paul Connell, founder of Open Data Institute (ODI) Leeds, said: “We are very pleased that Yorkshire Water have joined the founding sponsor group of ODI Leeds and committed to be ‘Open by Default’. They are now part of one of the strongest data and open innovation eco-systems in the country and open data is fundamental to its progress, as Leeds becomes The Data City.”

Overall, three data sets will be published by Yorkshire Water between March and May including historic leakage data, pollution incident data from the last five years, and new leakage data derived from acoustic ear listening devices which listen to the flow of water inside water mains.

Organisations such as the NHS and San Francisco Transport Authority have already identified millions of pounds worth of savings through the use of Open Data.

Yorkshire Water’s move to open data follows a major announcement by the firm to cut leakage by 40 percent and sewer flooding by 70 per cent, as it aims to become a leading performer in the sector.