How to optimize the work of operators in charge of water treatment and wastewater networks?

1 April 2020

PVA Applications PVA Sector

Local authorities in charge of water and wastewater treatment had to establish the specifications of their networks before 31 December 2013. These specifications were to include a schematic diagram of the entire network showing the location of water meters and a list indicating the length of water mains, their date of installation, and the category of construction. The goal was to identify gaps in the network, which carries approximately 6 billion cubic meters of drinking water each year, nearly a quarter (24%) of which is dispersed underground.

Drawing up a diagram of the drinking water and wastewater network, a not-so-simple project

To measure the progress of this huge project, an indicator has been defined to assess knowledge of the drinking water network, ensure quality management in the area and monitor the development of the network. The index corresponds to a certain number of points, from 0 to 120, depending on the composition of the network, and is divided into several parts:

  • Network diagram (15 points)
  • Network inventory (30 points)
  • Other elements related to knowledge and management of the network (75 points)

If at least 40 points are achieved, the detailed specifications are considered satisfactory. The deadline has long since passed, but the 36,000 French municipalities are far from meeting their obligations under the latest regulations. Even those local governments that have succeeded in setting standards for drinking water supply networks still have a long way to go. An assessment of the level of analysis of the water and sanitation network gives them 79 and 51 points respectively (out of a total of 120 possible points).

The action plan specifically foresees an annual follow-up monitoring of the performance of the network and, if necessary, a plan to implement a series of improvements to the network within a few years. According to the action plan, the detailed specifications of the drinking water system must be updated in a timely manner, and parts for water loss inspection and subsequent maintenance must be identified.

Some key figures on the drinking water system:

Les chiffres clés sur le réseau deau potable (1)

  • Total length of the drinking water network in France: 906,000 km
  • Annual production of drinking water: 6 billion m3
  • Loss of drinking water from the current French water network: 24%.
  • Share of French drinking water networks built before 1972: 50%.
  • Renewal rate of the drinking water network currently in place: 0.6% / year. This means that the replacement time for all the pipelines of the French drinking water network is estimated at more than 170 years.
  • Service life of drinking water network pipelines: 60 to 80 years
  • The above figures underline the need to maintain and update the drinking water pipeline network in France for economic and environmental reasons. Moreover, the longer it takes to make this investment, the more likely it is that future generations will have to bear the costs.

A more ambitious updating project should be developed, corresponding to the lifespan of the network. According to industry observers, the national average update rate should be close to 1.25% per year instead of the current 0.6%.

So what are the difficulties encountered by local authorities when defining standards in terms of drinking water and wastewater networks? 

The main problem is in fact the accumulation of various difficulties - lack of information, lack of time, lack of technical and financial resources, ageing installations, etc. - and the lack of a clear definition of the standards. It is easy to imagine the magnitude of the challenge!

The lack of available information is one of the biggest problems. Given that 50% of the network was built before 1972, much of it before the Second World War, it is obviously not possible to find a complete and up-to-date map of the network with a simple search on the Internet!

This problem is all the more real in rural communities, where networks are often distributed and complicated to locate. We will generally see that the best "maps" are memories of an older generation that saw or even installed the network. To date, this human knowledge base has almost disappeared, and the only way to retrieve all this information is through field research.

In addition, communities face a cruel lack of resources, whether human, technical or financial. The work must be done quickly and efficiently, but the tools and methods available are often very basic. 

In small rural communities, unlike large urban areas, there is no dedicated technical service team to undertake water network mapping. Census work can be tedious and requires more than a few hours to complete.

What solutions can municipalities use to map their water network? 

Although there are more and more tools on the market to effectively manage existing drinking water networks, they are not always known or easy to find. As a result, it is difficult for municipalities to meet inventory requirements and action plans. However, thanks to some dedicated tools, it is possible to achieve this objective fairly quickly.

In order to assess the network and detect possible leaks, it is often necessary to cut off water in certain parts of the network, move water pipes or shut off water meters. For operators, these actions can be very complicated. Since much of the system was installed almost 50 years ago, it is often difficult to open or close the valves in the system section. Rusty and fragile valves are difficult to turn and require more operators and force to operate the valves. Over time, this repetitive operation can lead to health problems such as musculoskeletal disease and damage to equipment and facilities.

The use of modec portable valve actuators improves operator safety and comfort 

An easy to use and efficient solution. When your operators use our portable actuators, they can open and close the valves without time-consuming handling. The repetitive movements associated with this type of work are greatly reduced, as are the risks of accidents and occupational illnesses. The operator no longer has to use force to operate a valve or handwheel. The hard work is done by the equipment, not by the operator. And thanks to the many options and torque take-up systems available with our range of portable actuators, your operators can work safely without the risk of "water hammer", especially at the beginning and end of the process.

Actionneurs de vannes portable (1)

The use of modec portable valve actuators saves time

Thanks to the portable actuators, your average valve opening speed is 50 times faster than manually, saving you valuable time. The tool is easy to install, with no need to pre-equip handwheels or valves.

The use of Modec portable valve actuators allows for the protection of equipment.

Use this essential tool to ensure the safety of your employees and equipment. Do not risk damaging your facilities. By controlling the speed and torque applied to valves and handwheels, you can extend their life and minimize the risk of damage.

Tools such as modec portable rotary actuators allow you to safely manage your water and wastewater systems. 

Copie de Vidéo manuel utilisation (1)-2

Save time, save resources and protect your employees and facilities.

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Damien Coissieux
Damien Coissieux

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