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Partnerships for efficient water management in the future

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  • Partnerships for efficient water management in the future

About the entity

Aqualia
Aqualia is the water management company owned by the citizen services group FCC (51%) and by the Australian ethical fund IFM Investors (49%). Aqualia is Europe's fourth largest private water company in terms of population served.
Global Omnium
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Themes

In an increasingly connected world, active collaboration of specialised companies with all their stakeholder groups is a must, in order to address new challenges and offer the management model that society will demand in the future.

A productive partnership

The water sector in Spain is a good example of public-private collaboration. Experience shows that with this formula projects are completed in s shorter period of time and with significant savings, taking advantage of the technical expertise and knowledge of companies.

Aqualia is involved in these partnerships in 1,100 municipalities in 22 countries, including more than 800 Spanish local governments. An example of such a partnership and its results is the city of Almería, where Aqualia has been jointly managing water services with the municipal government for 25 years. In this city a comprehensive plan has been implemented to provide a modern service, optimising available resources.

The development of an Investment Plan comprising several phases allowed undertaking improvements to infrastructure that led to optimising water use. Thanks to district metering, leakage detection systems and campaigns to raise public awareness, the volume of water supplied has been reduced by 50%. In 1993, Almería had a population of 160,000 people, consuming 30 hm3 per year. 25 years later, the population has grown to 200,000 people, but the volume of water supplied has decreased to 16 hm3 per year. A clear example of efficiency.

Salamanca has implemented an Active Pressure Management System (GAP system) to meet a specific need in the water supply network

In addition, Almería was the first city in Spain where Aqualia implemented a Smart Management System, a software service that focuses on network management to improve efficiency, while it also provides tools for short and medium term planning.

Together with these technical enhancements, new channels of communication with citizens have been implemented, with multiple channels for customer service available 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. Providing multiple channels was one of the priority objectives with regard to Customer Management, facilitating all type of formalities online, with the purpose of ensuring customer satisfaction and making life easier.

Once these challenges were overcome, the services have grown in collaboration with the municipal government and together we continue to work to address new challenges related to the circular economy: reduce the carbon footprint, reclaim used water or use renewable sources of energy, among others.

Working together in RDI: real projects for a sustainable future

Research activities are important for water management, to develop new technologies that guarantee water quality, with more sustainable processes. Aqualia collaborates actively with scientific bodies, universities, companies and organisations, obtaining great results.

Aqualia's RDI investment, part of programmes that receive funds from Spanish and European sources, allows research that will contribute to a radical change in waste water treatment processes. Many of these projects aim to eliminate pollutants in waste water that we all produce in our households, and transform them into biogas to be used for other purposes.

Research activities are important for water management, to develop technologies that guarantee water quality

In the future, this research work will allow changing completely current waste water treatment systems from energy consumption to net production. The project SMART Green Gas works in this area: it uses waste water to obtain biogas and produce electricity. This allows, on one hand, saving energy costs in the sanitation facilities, and in the other hand, obtaining a concentrated product with no impurities that is made in-house from waste and has a zero carbon footprint.

The first industrial prototype of the project Life Memory has been initiated at the waste water treatment plant in Alcázar de San Juan (province of Ciudad Real). The research results will allow reducing the carbon footprint by decreasing electricity consumption (and therefore CO2 emissions), and will allow implementing a circular economy approach to waste water treatment, with the production of biogas and reclaimed water.

Committed to each municipality

Public-private collaboration often facilitates specific solutions to meet specific needs. In these cases, service providers make the investments required and contribute their expertise, knowledge and available technology.

An example of this is the city of Salamanca, where Aqualia, in collaboration with the municipal government, has implemented an Active Pressure Management System (GAP system) to meet a specific need in the city's water supply network, thereby reducing network failures by 48%.

The drinking water distribution network in the city of Salamanca has more than 400 km of pipelines of different sizes and materials. Two thirds of them are made of ductile iron, but there is still a third portion made of fibre cement, older pipelines where most failures and issues concentrate. To detect and prevent them, the municipal   government, through Aqualia, implemented an Active Pressure Management System (GAP).

Good water management contributes to the generation of wealth and has a positive impact on society as a whole

Several actions were undertaken prior to implementing the GAP system, including improvements to network district metering, moving from 7 sectors with no regulation to  23 sectors, 10 of which have active pressure regulation. The control and visualization centre, located at Aqualia's head office in Salamanca, receives more than 10,000 data daily from the entire water network of the city.  The data, once analysed, allow making decisions to improve the service, minimise losses, prevent failures and the number of users affected. 

The results so far have been very satisfactory. From January to October 2018, there were 79 failures in the city's water supply network, which is 48% less than in the same period of the previous year (153). In addition, thanks to the implementation of the GAP system, the city's drinking water treatment plant could produce one million m3 less than in the same period of the previous year. That means savings equivalent to the annual water consumption of 15,000 people. In addition, and as an additional benefit, the system will increase the useful life of pipelines in a large portion of the over 400 km of network supplying water to the city of Salamanca.

Partnerships with the third sector

The mission and commitment to citizens goes beyond water management, to also create social benefits. Aqualia collaborates with different NGOs in different projects that support initiatives linked to the locations where the company provides services, in support of those communities.

A clear example of commitment to sustainability are the awareness and responsible use campaigns that Aqualia carries out in several municipalities. A successful case is the one in the Balearic Islands. There, Aqualia is part of the partnership for sustainable water management in Ibiza and Formentera [Alianza por la gestión sostenible del agua de Ibiza y Formentera], an organisation formed by representatives from public authorities, private entities, civil society, the hospitality and the agricultural sectors, among others.

One of the areas where the partnership is most active is communications and social awareness. In the Pityuses islands (which include Ibiza and Formentera), tourism is very important for the economy, but is not always in line with environmental sustainability objectives. In this context, the partnership has been implementing the campaign 'Enjoy the islands, save water' for three summers. The action, including tools such as brochures; stickers in bars, restaurants, shops and rental cars; hotel door hangers; and advertising at bus stops, has a big social impact. This campaign was recognised in 2017 by the Forética association within the initiative 'Sustainable city living' and in the category 'Communication and awareness".