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SmVak: Czech efficiency in water management

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  • SmVak: Czech efficiency in water management
  • In Europe, population growth, urbanisation, pollution and some effects of climate change, as well as long periods of drought, are putting a lot of pressure on integrated water cycle management. Given this situation, the water sector has to provide the solutions necessary for a more efficient use of the resource.

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.
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Some of the challenges the water sector in the Czech Republic faces are common to the whole of Europe. In this country there is a need for a regulatory system to eliminate complexities and some contradictions. The Czech sector is highly fragmented: there are thousands of small infrastructure owners, as well as a large number of operators, who lack mechanisms to ensure proper infrastructure maintenance. Moreover, the requirements of European environmental legislation are increasing, and there are certain ideological messages that introduce some confusion regarding water services management.

SmVak: Aqualia enters the European market

Aqualia is present in Europe since 2006, when it entered Italy, Portugal and the Czech Republic. In this last country, through the acquisition of the company SmVak, the third company in the sector in the Czech Republic, and main operator in the Moravia-Silesia region. As one of the leading companies in the country's water management sector, SmVak is responsible for integrated water management in the districts of Frýdek-Místek, Karviná, Nový Jičín and Opava. The company supplies raw water to, among others, the municipalities of Ostrava, Hlučín, Studénka and Přerov, as well as several border towns in Poland. It also has concession contracts to manage the sewerage network and the waste water treatment plant in Bruntál, as well as the water supply network of the Syrákov Association of Municipalities in the Zlín region.

SmVak main business is the production and supply of drinking water, as well as the collection and treatment of waste water

The Podhradí drinking water treatment plant and the regional water network in Ostrava

The water demand in the Ostrava area and in other areas of the region grew after the Second World War with the industrial boom. At the time the population in Ostrava was 220,000 people, who consumed 125 litres per person per day. In those circumstances, it was impossible to maintain the supply just with the water sources available at that point.

The Podhradí water treatment plant became operational on December 20th, 1958. Placing into service the drinking water treatment plant on that date meant the start of the regional water network in Ostrava: a new way to produce, distribute and supply drinking water in the region. This water network has been unique from the very beginning: not only because of its singular design, but because it was the first one in the country to use surface water sources to produce drinking water at such scale.

After a series of construction works, the capacity of the plant gradually increased from 250 litres per second to, already in 1972, 2000 litres per second.

The length of the water supply network is 5,061 kilometres, whereas the length of the sanitation network is 1,844 kilometres

The limited company Severomoravské vodovody a kanalizace Ostrava a.s. was created in 1992 (SmVak). In 2006, Aqualia bought shares in the company, and in 2009 it became the majority shareholder.

With the arrival of the new millennium, a plan of upgrades was formulated, based on periodical assessments of the technical condition of structures. Special attention was paid to centralised control systems in the central water management control room. In 2017, all IT equipment was replaced completely in the control room to update the hardware and software, in order to enhance the security and resilience of the Ostrava regional water network control centre.

2018 was the 60th anniversary of the water network in the Ostrava area, and SmVak is consolidated as a solid company, able to provide an excellent quality service.

7000 kilometres of network to serve 730,000 people

SmVak main business is the production and supply of drinking water, as well as the collection and treatment of waste water. In 2018, it produced 60 million cubic metres (m3) of drinking water. The length of the water supply network is 5,061 kilometres, whereas the length of the sanitation network is 1,844 kilometres. It supplies water to a population of some 730,000 people.

SmVak supplies water to municipalities in the districts of Opava, Frýdek-Místek and Třinec, and it is also in charge of the raw water supply in the city of Ostrava

Drinking water production

95% of the drinking water is obtained from central resources (the Kružberk reservoirs in the foothills of the Jeseníky region, Šance and Morávka in the Beskydy mountains), managed by the public company Povodí Odry in three drinking water treatment plants.

The production and distribution system that supplies drinking water to the Moravia-Silesia region is the water conveyance system for the Ostrava area, which has 504 kilometres of water supply pipelines and 113 water tanks, with a capacity of 302,638 m3 of drinking water.

In addition, SmVak supplies water with local resources to municipalities in the districts of Opava, Frýdek-Místek and Třinec. It is also in charge of the raw water supply in the city of Ostrava.

SmVak is responsible as well for managing the sanitation network in 80 municipalities with a total length of 1,844 kilometres

Waste water treatment

SmVak is responsible as well for managing the sanitation network in 80 municipalities with a total length of 1,844 kilometres. It manages 157 waste water pumping stations and 68 waste water treatment plants with a treatment capacity of 271,246 m3 (a capacity to treat almost 1 million population equivalents).

Finally, the company is responsible for providing specialised technical assistance, meter reading management, turnkey construction projects for water supply and sanitation connections, hydraulic analysis of sanitation pipelines, etc.

Water quality

For SmVak, each and every one of the components that make up the integrated water cycle is important. Water analysis labs are an essential aspect to ensure the quality of the water provided. Drinking water quality is regulated by Czech legislation, which includes the requirements of EU directives. The drinking water supplied to the network is subject to continuous monitoring and analysis, including raw water analysis (prior to treatment), water analysis during the treatment process, and also of drinking water at the tap. The purpose of these analyses is to know the water characteristics during the different water supply phases, with comprehensive monitoring of such parameters in order to ensure quality water distribution according to requirements.

The company invests more than 500 million Czech crowns (about 19.6 million euros) per year on improvements to infrastructure

The analysis data are published in the www.smvak.cz website, with results revealing that the quality of the water supplied has improved noticeably in the past few years, due to improvements in the quality of the water abstracted and also to the implementation of more innovative water treatment procedures.

Investment to improve the service

The company invests more than 500 million Czech crowns (about 19.6 million euros) per year on improvements to infrastructure, modernisation and construction of water supply and sanitation facilities. Only in 2017 it invested close to 212 million Czech crowns (about 8.3 million euros) in repairs.

Furthermore, it is involved in the development of actions to improve the quality of the work done by the 860 professionals on staff at SmVak, and to contribute to protecting the environment. In this regard, occupational safety is a priority. The company is certified to the OHSAS 18001:2007 standard, establishing the requirements for an occupational health and safety management system, with regular monitoring and control assessments. With a commitment to quality, it is also ISO 9001 certified (Quality Management Systems) and ISO 14001: 2006 certified (Environmental Management Systems).

With a commitment to quality, SmVak is ISO 9001 certified (Quality Management Systems) and ISO 14001: 2006 certified

Environmental protection is a permanent objective, and thus the company ensures investments and enhancements to that effect, especially regarding waste water treatment techniques and the upgrading of sanitation networks. The company has also invested in clean energy: it has seven small hydropower stations in the raw water production and distribution system, and 11 cogeneration units in waste water treatment plants. The company is certified to the ISO 50001 standard, that validates its Energy Generation System.

Data on efficient management

Since its creation, SmVak manages the integrated water cycle in an important area in the eastern Czech Republic and the border area of Jastrzębie-Zdroj in Poland. Its main business is the production and supply of drinking water, as well as waste water treatment. In 2018, SmVak produced 60 million m3 of drinking water. The water network is 5,061 kilometres long and the sewerage system is 1,825 kilometres long. The company supplies drinking water to more than 730,000 people.

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