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UKAS accreditation: ensuring potable water quality – Welsh Water case study

Welsh Water, the primary water supplier for 3 million people, plays a crucial role in providing potable water and managing wastewater treatment. To ensure the safety and quality of the water supply, Welsh Water is subject to UKAS accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025.

Insourcing water analysis

Recognising the importance of accurate water analysis, Welsh Water made the decision in 2012 to insource their testing and analysis processes. They built and commissioned two testing laboratories, enabling them to have complete control over the quality of the water supply. This ambitious project required UKAS accreditation, ensuring compliance with international standards for laboratory testing.

Phased approach to accreditation

Initially seeking accreditation for specific analytical methods and sampling processes, Welsh Water gradually expanded the scope of their accreditation to include additional methods and processes each year. This step-by-step approach allowed the organisation to ensure compliance with ISO/IEC 17025, MCERTS and DWTS regulations while continuously improving their operations.

The annual assessment cycle of UKAS accreditation has been instrumental in driving Welsh Water towards continuous improvement. The dialogue and feedback received during the assessment process serves as a catalyst for identifying areas of improvement. Even issues that do not require immediate action are highlighted for future focus, encouraging Welsh Water to develop their improvement plans.

Welsh Water’s Quality Assurance Manager, Amanda Rogers, praises the objectivity, approachability, and accessibility of the UKAS assessors. Despite their expertise, the assessors understand the pressure faced during assessments and create a supportive environment for the teams. Their objective feedback and praise for exceptional performance motivate the laboratory and sampling teams to excel.

Whilst remaining entirely objective, you can see that they understand the pressure someone may be under in a witnessed assessment, even though they may easily carry out that same test every other day of their professional lives. They make an effort to put people at their ease and give them space to perform and will actually offer praise when they see something done particularly well.

Confidence in robust systems

Accreditation not only ensures compliance but also instils confidence in Welsh Water’s processes and systems. In the event of issues or errors, the robust systems in place enable prompt corrections and appropriate actions. Accreditation provides a framework and structure that cascades improvements throughout the organisation, ensuring consistent quality and reliability.

Amanda comments:

Ultimately accreditation gives us confidence that everyone is doing everything exactly the way it should be done. When things go wrong (and sometimes they do), we are certain that there are robust systems in place to deal with these issues and make appropriate corrections. It provides a framework and structure that the rest of our practices hang from and improvements cascade through the business.

Professional development for employees

Welsh Water’s accreditation journey has also led to professional development opportunities for their employees. As Employer Champions with the Science Council, Welsh Water supports their staff in obtaining formal qualifications and progressing through different stages of professional recognition. This commitment to employee development reflects their dedication to safety and competence in water analysis.

Expanding the scope of accreditation

Welsh Water continues to invest in their quality management processes. They are planning to implement Quality Management Software, further enhancing their ability to monitor and maintain high standards. Additionally, Welsh Water has also achieved accreditation for flow cytometry, a cutting-edge method for assessing background bacterial levels demonstrating their commitment to staying at the forefront of environmental water analysis.

Importance of accurate water sampling

Accreditation extends beyond laboratory testing to encompass the critical aspect of water sampling. Welsh Water recognises that the quality of sampling directly impacts the accuracy of the results generated. By establishing robust procedures, providing training, ensuring competency, and implementing controls, Welsh Water guarantees consistent and reflective water quality sampling.

Through insourcing water analysis, obtaining accreditation, and embracing continuous improvement, Welsh Water showcases their commitment to delivering high-quality drinking water to millions of people, as confirmed by Amanda:

The quality of sampling ultimately affects the quality of the results generated. It’s so important to have good procedures, training, competency and controls to make sure samples are taken consistently and are reflective of the water quality.