How do we keep our water infrastructures fit for present - and future - standards?

To meet the new directives from the EU, water infrastructures across Europe are in great need of serious investments. More specifically, the 28 OECD member states are €100 billion short - the equivalent of €100-200 per inhabitant. 12-06-2020

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) has published their long-awaited report on the necessity of water and sanitation investments. The report states that on average, the 28 OECD member states are €100 billion short in investments. The report furthermore states that a significant increase in water infrastructure investments is necessary in order for the EU member states to comply with the new European Drinking Water Directive and the European Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive, according to which the investments of the individual member states must increase by more than 25%.

The report is warmly received by the organisation EurEau which for years has pointed out the problem of a water infrastructure that gets older every day. As the pipes and other parts get older, they cause an even greater need for investments if the systems are to live up to our present-day standard.

But digging up pipes and replacing them with new ones need not be the only way to go. The water pipes in inner city Copenhagen are more than 100 years old and still in a fine condition. The NRW level is at only 4% in the area, and so the two parameters of old pipes and high NRW level need not be correlated.

So, what would be the best way to get our water infrastructures fit for present - and future - standards?

Monitor your network activities, and stay on top of requirements

The solution is to be in control by continuously performing surveillance and check. Varying pressure impacts the lifespan of pipes significantly as constantly fluctuating pressure will stress the pipes beyond their durability, causing them to burst. If you monitor the pressure for 24 hours, you will see that water consumption levels vary during the day. At certain hours of the day, water consumption is high, typically in the morning when people get up and carry out their morning routine and again in the evening when people cook, do the dishes, and carry out other water intensive tasks. During these hours, the pressure decreases due to increased consumption, whereas during the hours of moderate water consumption, the pressure of the water reaches the desired service pressure. This daily cycle of varying consumption of water impacts the water pressure directly which in turn impacts the life span of the pipes.

One way to get things under control is through digitisation. Collecting data from the distribution grid and using this data to operate the water supply is one way to digitise. Using real time data, the distribution models become much more credible; pressure and flow can be controlled according to actual needs, reducing leakage and saving energy. It is common knowledge that higher pressure in the pipes causes more water to spill through cracks and leaks and the energy required to pump this loss is in turn also to be considered loss.

The solution is quite simple, really. Installing sensors in the right place enables you to collect data of pressure, temperature and flow, and to enter this input into the SCADA system which in turn helps you operate the water supply and optimise the distribution models. Learn much more about the possibilities in our Smart Water area.

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