In the current context, access to quality water is key to fighting the Coronavirus pandemic. Idrica manages water in six municipalities in the south of the Colombian Atlantic Department, including 8 drinking water treatment plants (DWTP) and 3 wastewater treatment plants (WWTP). Idrica also manages the operation of water distribution to serve 23,000 drinking water and 6,000 sewage clients. In this interview, Francisco Ríos, Operations Director at Idrica Colombia, explains how the company is improving water quality and supply in the country.
Q. What was the situation like a few years ago in the area?
A. Previously, in some municipalities water supply reached the sectors every 5 days, every 15 days...In some rural areas, water did not even reach the sectors. Moreover, its quality did not comply with the parameters dictated by regulations (Resolution 2115/2017) and monitored by the Health Department.
Q. What role has Idrica played in improving water quality and supply? And what role is it playing now, during COVID-19?
A. Water distribution has been improved, carrying out corrective and preventive maintenance plans, acquiring equipment to control and monitor water quality and making priority investments in infrastructure so that - in neighborhoods where there was previously water shortage - now water arrives every 24 or 12 hours. Both the service and quality have been improved, managing to comply with the parameters established in all the municipalities we operate. We keep working so that all of them can have water supplied 24 hours a day.
We are also maintaining this operation in the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic. At this time, when domestic consumption has increased due to lockdown, it is especially important to improve service. For this reason, we keep improving and reviewing quality.
Q. How has coronavirus affected management?
A. We have implemented several measures to minimize the risk for workers and customers, as well as their exposure to the virus. On the one hand, our office hours have been reduced and plumbing crews and engineers responsible for the area continue their activity at home with 24-hour availability. The timetable of the plant operators and pumping systems has been maintained, ensuring water supply and distribution.
On the other hand, we have implemented safety protocols for hand cleaning and temperature control, distributing safety equipment such as masks and gloves to all personnel. Commercial tasks have been reduced to essential ones, such as the distribution of invoices.
To guarantee supply, the operation has been maintained with a 24-hour on-call system. Although staff hours have been reduced, an emergency service is provided at any time of the day. Major works have been stopped, but quality reviews, fault resolution, corrective and preventive maintenance, and tasks linked to small improvements to ensure quality and continuity of service are maintained.
Q. What challenges remain today?
A. Besides continuing to work to ensure the quality and continuity of supply, it is necessary to keep improving the efficiency of the infrastructure in order to guarantee an excellent service to the population. To this end, priority is being given to smaller-scale actions that have an impact on improving distribution. We would like to thank the entire work team, which, being aware of the circumstances, is committed to the service.