ACCADUEO: the experts speak
“Many Italian cities have participated independently in efforts, both international (e.g. the EU Covenant of Mayors in 2009) and domestic (Charter of Bologna for the Environment in 2017), to achieve sustainable development, the effective use of energy and resources, and improved environmental conditions in the cities
It is evident, therefore, that water utilities must move toward the same objectives not only because these are also the indications and directives of ARERA but to act in harmony with their respective city councils; in truth, many utilities have been pursuing these objectives for years and have been successful not only in company performance but also in the reputation perceived by their users.
Water losses have always been the focus of the communication media, and thus public opinion, and utilities have striven to monitor and reduce them.
Fortunately, for some years now and even more so today, the networks can be equipped at affordable costs with widespread, intelligent instruments (traditional and IoT) and powerful, innovative software to monitor and control equipment and valves; with new and retrained veteran personnel, the water distribution components and water balances, overall and, above all, by district, can be monitored continuously and thus guide operational intervention and optimize investments.
Utilities in step with the time can not only draft reliable, precise annual budgets, to be transmitted each year to ARERA and its stakeholders, but can and must know how much water they produce daily, how much they distribute, and thus the amount of losses, so as to reduce them to within accepted international standards.”
“The water service in Italy faced a great infrastructural challenge after the war to absorb the demographic growth (baby boom) and welfare. In the ’70s, '80s and ’90s, the infrastructural effort focused on safeguarding the environment (sewer systems, waste water treatment plants, etc.). At the end of the millennium, the infrastructural effort concentrated on improving environmental standards and levels of service. All the investments were financed out of general tax revenues, adding to the national public debt.
Today, we are operating with infrastructure 50 or more years old, and the new, innovative, high-tech infrastructure has a reduced technical lifespan.
We are leaving an enormous public debt to future generations, so we cannot leave them the problem of infrastructural integrity of the Water Service as well. One thing is urgent: We must invest more and better!”
European Business Director
WRc plc – Water Research Centre
“The water sector continues to be of great industrial interest, and especially of great environmental importance, but the contradictions continue to produce serious structural problems, and the situations of water infrastructure and water management are still heavily penalized. In recent years, strong regulation has produced many positive results and a decisive sign of change: after an initial startup phase, the Authorities have succeeded in creating and coordinating the sector with great credibility and authoritativeness (not just authority). The Institutions are also bolstering their environmental policies through growth projects and not just programs of hope, and some environmental public service companies have expressed unprecedented commitment and technological capability. Many investments are being made, there is a growing ability of reaction and innovation in the water cycle (due especially to new tariff methods) and product and service companies have maintained a high level of service quality.
But this is not enough. A modern, sustainable approach to the problem of quality is required toward circular economic sustainability that must consider the quality of the receiving bodies, both generally and with regard to their specific uses; there must be incentives to reduce waste, improve the maintenance of supply and distribution networks, reduce losses, promote water recycling and the reuse of treated waste water. There have recently been important trends in the innovation sector and growing interest, both institutional and industrial, toward appropriate treatment technologies and systems /techniques to reduce consumption, the rationalization of water flows (including recovery and reuse options), and the recovery of material in production processes. But more is required: from digitization of the sector to smart metering, new meters (where there is still a lack of regulation), microbiological monitoring, reduction of energy consumption, and the resolution of sludge problems. Innovation will be a great help. However, an economic culture of environmental public services must be developed, with greater attention to cost levels and especially pricing and therefore tariffs. A process of civility is required, but also the development of an economic culture for the sector.
In these years when the Accadueo Innovation Commission has been active, there has been growing attention on the part of suppliers of products, plants, and services to improving quality (also evident in the trade shows this year). Attention to innovation and to experimentation (with resulting patents) has fostered high-value proposals in water management. The challenge now is to apply these proposals in a context of increasing investment.”
Scientific Coordinator of H2O
“Monitoring, processing, recovery, and assessment: these are the keywords of the project conducted by five laboratories of the universities of Ferrara and Bologna and ENEA to introduce a series of sustainability-promoting innovations into the water sector. The objective of this project, which has lasted two years and concluded this summer, was to experiment with a few solutions for savings through the introduction of new ICT technologies to make the public more aware of and attentive to its water consumption habits.
This project had several objective.
The first was to test a new procedure for monitoring water consumption through new-generation indoor and outdoor meters positioned in homes measuring consumption in real time. The data from the meters is sent to a receiving kit installed in the building: this is a small, low-cost device that acquires the information and sends it to a cloud platform via the Internet. There the data is stored, processed, and released to the public and the utility, available for consultation on the Web, thus providing water consumption indicators and evidence of any losses. This technology permits households to see how much water they are consuming in real time through an app or a web platform without waiting for the arrival of the bill to learn of any losses.
This data is also compared with other indicators to reveal, for example, if the consumption of a household is in line with the average consumption in the area of residence, or whether it consumes more or less over time, flagging any deviations from habitual use. This provides a quantitative, multi-parameter, multi-scale assessment of the household's economic-environmental water sustainability.
Two other objectives concerned environmental mitigation techniques: the researchers, in fact, developed a software for designers and planners to evaluate the optimal dimensions of accumulation tanks for rainfall and grey water based on consumption and the pluviometry of the area where they are installed. They also monitored the experimental green roof at the School of Engineering and Architecture of Via Terracini in Bologna to reconstruct hydrologic behavior and measure its water retention capacity. The objective of all these systems is to save drinking water and reduce the input to sewage, with evident environmental impact and increased resilience of the sewers in extreme precipitation events.
The research project was co-funded by POR FESR Emilia-Romagna; over 20 professors and researchers in the fields of civil and hydraulic engineering, as well as ICT, participated in the project.”