A new “Fibre in Water” scheme being tested in South Yorkshire could bring faster broadband to thousands of homes and businesses via water pipes.

Around 17km of the existing water mains running between Barnsley and Penistone may soon double as a broadband network under proposals by the government to run fibre-optic cables through water pipelines.

The green and cost-effective solution is designed to support the rollout of gigabit-capable connections and power new 5G mobile masts in the UK.

Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez said the government is looking at “bold” and innovative ways to bring broadband to urban and rural areas without having to dig up roads.

The customarily disruptive installation of poles and ducts accounts for approximately 80% of ultrafast broadband network production costs.

If successful, the new scheme could connect up to 8,500 premises with the water pipeline cabling system.

The initial exploratory phase of the project is currently underway, testing the safety and commercial viability of the tech.

There could also be benefits for water networks as the solution will be able to detect and minimise water leaks.

Initial trials are set to last for two years. If given the green light, they are expected to be used in networks by 2024 and give a new lease of life to the government’s £5bn Project Gigabit.

Yorkshire Water’s Sam Bright said the fibre in water rollout can “reduce the environmental impact and day-to-day disruptions that can be caused by both water and telecoms companies’ activities”.