Yorkshire Water gets government fund for fibre in water investigations

An illustration of the water in fibre solution. The picture shows a fibre cable being fed into a water pipe via a valve fitting.
Innovation Network and infrastructure


  • Funding allows Yorkshire Water to start research and investigation for first UK pilot*
  • If successful, many rural communities in South Yorkshire could get access to superfast broadband
  • Yorkshire Water hopes to use the cables to detect leaks and cracks on water pipes


Yorkshire Water and partners have received a £1.2 million Government grant to kickstart the fibre in water market within the UK. The water company will carry out investigations in South Yorkshire to plan the pilot, which would be a first for the UK.


If the scheme passes the initial investigative phase, fibre optic cables will be laid within 17km of Yorkshire Water’s live network between Barnsley and Penistone in South Yorkshire.


Fibre cables have been laid in other countries such as Spain, Israel, and the USA. However, this pilot would be the first time it has been deployed at scale within the UK. If the pilot is successful, the water company could roll the technology out across the region, helping rural communities all over Yorkshire.


More than 99% of the UK population is serviced by a series of underground water networks. Through utilising this existing infrastructure, it could provide a cost-effective solution for broadband providers to service hard-to-reach areas, whilst water customers further benefit from the associated reductions in leakage.


Analysts in Yorkshire Water would be able to use the cables to detect cracks, bursts and leaks so that they can be repaired quicker, reducing water loss and disruption to customers.


Digital Infrastructure Minister, Julia Lopez, said: “Digging up roads and land is one of the biggest obstacles to rolling out faster broadband, so we’re investing to explore how we can make use of the existing water network to accelerate deployment and also help detect and prevent water leaks.


“We’re committed to breaking down barriers to better broadband and this pioneering project is an exciting example of the bold measures this government is leading on to level up communities with top-of-the-range digital connectivity.”


Sam Bright, innovation programme manager at Yorkshire Water said: “We are very pleased that the Government is supporting the development of the Fibre in Water solution which can reduce the environmental impact and day-to-day disruptions that can be caused by both water and telecoms companies’ activities.


“The technology for fibre in water has significantly progressed in recent years and this project will now enable us to fully develop its potential to help improve access to better broadband in hard-to-reach areas and further reduce leakage on our networks.”


The first technology to insert fibre optic cables into water pipes was approved for use in the UK in 2019.


This project will be delivered by Yorkshire Water working with Arcadis, University of Strathclyde and other partners. To keep up to date with the latest information, go to: www.yorkshirewater.com/about-us/innovation/fibre-in-water/ 





* This is the first UK installation of fibre in water within the main water supply network that will provide superfast broadband to properties.