Ofwat has stated that more innovation is needed in the sector and has tasked water companies with looking at how they can operate differently to meet the current and future challenges. Here we look at how innovative water treatment solutions can help companies achieve their objectives.
In its PR19 final determinations overview, one of Ofwat’s key conclusions is that water companies will need to innovate to meet the challenges that the sector faces. This is not only in terms of meeting the needs of the population with limited water resources but also reducing costs and prices to customers. As such, it is clear that companies must be strategic about capital investment in order to solve these issues.
Therefore, embracing innovations and the new technology that is available is essential to help achieve improvements in performance. One of the most important areas for improvement is maximising the efficiency of wastewater treatment plants and processes.
Advances in connected technology and the industrial internet of things has made this increasingly cost effective, especially when the scale of potential improvements is considered. The optimisation solutions for municipal wastewater treatment systems use sensors installed across the facility or even the whole network to remotely collect real-time data about the performance of the equipment. They can also be used to track other factors that will impact the network. Specially designed software is then used to aggregate and analyse the data to identify and then achieve the optimum operational parameters. Optimising the treatment process allows water companies to significantly increase both the biological and hydraulic capacity of their facilities. Not only does this reduce operating costs but it can also minimise the need for additional capital investment.
As an example, our cloud-based AQUAVISTA solution uses a sophisticated algorithm-based optimisation to deliver up to a 40% increase in biological load with the same effluent concentrations and between a 20% and 100% higher flow rate through the wastewater treatment process.
One of the immediate effects of optimising the treatment process is a reduction in operational costs. Typically, aeration costs can be lowered by up to 30 per cent and mixing costs by between 25 and 75 per cent. This is because without continuous monitoring of the incoming effluent quality, the water can be over aerated and overdosed with chemicals. By monitoring the parameters and adjusting the plant accordingly, an optimisation platform can significantly reduce excess energy and chemical usage.
Furthermore, maximising the potential hydraulic and biological capacity of the plant allows water companies to reduce capital expenditure. Utilising the full capacity of an existing water treatment plant means the demands of a growing local population or stricter regulatory standards can be met without investing in new plant or facilities. An additional benefit is that when investment is required, water companies will have a complete and detailed overview of the performance of the plant. This can help to make a more informed decision about the most effective use of the capital expenditure.
A demonstration of how optimisation performs in practice is the Danish utility company BlueKolding’s use of Veolia Water Technologies’ AQUAVISTA Plant technology. BlueKolding provides the drinking water and manages the wastewater for the 100,000 citizens in the city and suburbs of Kolding in Southern Denmark.
AQUAVISTA Plant has provided BlueKolding with a 25 per cent improvement in effluent quality and a 40 per cent reduction in operating costs. By optimising the plant, electricity costs have been reduced by 23 per cent and a 25 per cent reduction in the use of water treatment chemicals has also been achieved. In addition, AQUAVISTA has produced an 80 per cent increase in hydraulic capacity and as a result, combined sewer overflows (CSOs) have been reduced by more than 67 per cent as the basins have the capacity to store the water rather than release it.
Adopting new innovations is essential for water companies to achieve their objectives and meet both the short and long term challenges that the sector faces. Adopting new approaches can been seen as risky and expensive, however technology that can help reduce costs and expand capacity can be a valuable investment.
About the Author
Mike has worked in the Construction Industry for nearly 35 years, joining Veolia Water Technologies 25 years ago. He has held a number of senior commercial and operational positions for VWT over the years and has been Business Development Director since 2005. Mike has also been a Non Executive Director of British Water and past Chair of the UK Forum helping to represent the interests of British Water members and contribute on key industry issues.