Managing the water supply network estate – difficult deadlines to be met

29 September 2017

PVA Sector

Recent legislative changes regarding the estate management of water supply networks are well documented, however putting them into effect requires a complete change of practice from 2014 onwards. Indeed, the new regulatory deadlines will have technical and financial repercussions for sub-contractor companies working in these public sectors.

To evaluate the impact, we need to take a look at the regulatory obligations:

A requirement, since 31 December 2013, for a detailed specification of the drinking water supply system and waste water management system, with sanctions from the Water Agency for non-compliance.

Introduction of knowledge indexes and of an estate management system for drinking water and wastewater networks (indexed to the Annual Report). As well as establishing a new way of calculating these indexes (obligatory for the Annual Report in terms of price and public service quality for water and sanitation), the legislation defines the level that needs to be attained in the above-mentioned detailed specification.

Finally, and still within the framework of the estate management system, companies have an obligation to ensure their drinking water networks provide a minimum yield – with the threat of sanctions from the Water Agency if an action plan is not implemented (should the yield be insufficient).

So, these legislative changes require that charts are drawn up for drinking water supply and waste water management systems, including a detailed specification for the distribution of drinking water and the collection of waste water. It would seem that this obligation is taking the industry in the right direction as greater knowledge of the networks is a prerequisite for managing the estate of water distribution systems.


A detailed specification updated every year…

It must include “a map of the networks indicating the location of the general water meters and an inventory of the networks: length of pipeline; year or, failing that, decade in which the pipeline was built, network category; available information on the material used and the diameter of the pipelines”.

Let’s not forget that this specification – which was meant to be drawn up before the end of 2013 – has to be updated every year, setting out any repair or renewal work carried out as well as any data collected during the year.

Failure to provide this specification has financial consequences – the Water Agency will double the fee levied for access to the water supply. Thus, if no specification is provided by the end of 2013, the fee is doubled for 2014.


Demanding knowledge levels

Recent regulatory requirements stipulated that “a total of 40 points (out of a possible 120 points) must be attained for it to be considered that the service possesses a detailed specification of the drinking water supply system”.


Network maps:

To obtain 10 points, maps must be provided for at least 95% of connections or 95% of the agglomerative surface;

A further 5 points are allocated for implementing a procedure to update the maps at least once a year.

For the network inventory:

10 points are obtained if a network inventory details the length of pipeline, the category of material used as well as the materials and diameter for at least half the total length, plus an additional 1 point each time this same information is provided for an additional 10% of the network.

10 points are also allocated for providing the installation date or period for half the total length, plus 1 point for each extra segment of 10%.

For the above-mentioned detailed specification to be considered valid, you must obtain 40 from a maximum of 45 points in these two areas (ie maps and inventory)! In other words, if you don’t use the services of the major groups, it can prove very difficult to get the required 40 points, at least in the short term.

Moreover, gathering this information requires a minimum amount of time if you want to keep costs reasonable.

Finally, the exact definition of this specification was only made available to service suppliers on 2 December 2013 – yet the objective was to have specifications in place by the end of 2013!


Achieving the minimum target requirement –

Finally, within the framework of this estate management, the public water providers must also meet a minimum efficiency requirement for the drinking water supply network. Efficiency levels must be above the set target: either 85% or a value calculated using the consumption linear index. Same as with the specification, if target efficiencies are not met, sanctions are imposed - namely the Water Agency will double the fee levied for access to the water supply, and, in the absence of an action plan, a pluri-annual programme of network improvements is imposed.

It is often more complicated than expected for local authorities to draw up a detailed specification of their drinking water and waste water networks, as required. The most common problems they come up against are:

  • Insufficient knowledge of the network
  • Ageing equipment and amenities
  • Lack of resources and personnel
  • Safety issues for staff and equipment


Marie-Charlotte Messier
Marie-Charlotte Messier

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