Protecting your Water Supply

    Event lab 2.0 installed

    The World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Risks Report 2016 ranks ‘water crises’ as the 3rd biggest global risk. So water security and the provision of clean drinking water is one of the most important tasks facing any government. The UN estimates that by 2025, 800 million people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could be under stress conditions. This is particularly true in water scarce nations in the Middle East where demand for water and water usage rates are extremely high and growing despite very limited supply. 

    “The consequences of inadequate water quality monitoring can be translated into substantial public health and security risks”

    Water security is defined by UN Water as ‘the capacity of a population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate quantities of acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human well- being, and socio-economic development, for ensuring protection against water-borne pollution and water-related disasters, and for preserving ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability.’ Access to safe, clean water has been proven to be one of the most efficient and effective ways of maintaining a healthy population. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated ‘the economic costs avoided, and returns gained, by various levels of investment in water supply and sanitation services: every USD1 invested in improved water supply and sanitation yields gains of USD4 to USD12, depending on the type of intervention.’ Water-poor communities are typically economically poor and where economic opportunities are routinely lost. An effective and clean water infrastructure dramatically cuts down the need for portable water which is inefficient and costly. However, statistics show that 30–60% of water quality incidents are related to events in the water distribution network. The contamination of water can occur for numerous different reasons from deliberate actions by individuals to human error, accidental contaminations, poor water infrastructure such as ageing pipes, leaks, failure of water cleaning processes such as filters and improper water storage. This contamination can occur at all levels of the water infrastructure from treatment plants at the water source to the pipes in individual houses. The consequences of inadequate water quality monitoring can be translated into substantial public health and security risks, economic damages (recovery costs) and reputational damages and liabilities. Late detection of quality issues hampers identification and isolation of the source (position) and the spread of the contamination, compromising adequate actions.

    So what can be done?
    Deploying early warning systems in the distribution system is a highly effective strategy used by various utilities to protect their customers against this threat of accidental or intentional contaminations. This is why real time detection of contaminants in the water at multiple points throughout the water supply is perhaps the most effective solution as it allows the appropriate authorities to take swift action to resolve the issue, dramatically reducing any potential effects on the wider population. New technologies are providing one of the most effective low cost, long term solutions to the problem. One such solution that has been shown to be highly effective is optical technology which utilizes optical sensors to detect minute to detect changes in the refractive index (RI) in water in case of contamination or the existent of pollutants. A Dutch company called Optiqua has created a product called EventLab, the world’s only refractive index (RI) sensor that is sensitive enough to monitor the quality of drinking water and detect the full spectrum of contaminants in water infrastructures and networks and to feedback that information in real time allowing utilities to:

    •  Accurately measure water quality continuously in real time throughout the network.
    •  Detect a full spectrum of contaminants in real time (such as toxic substances or chemicals, organic agents, chemical warfare agents and pesticides) unlike other sensors that are only able to detect certain pre-determined contaminants. 
    •  Detect minute changes in water quality in real time.
    •  Detect aging infrastructure which may result in the existence of free flowing chemicals, metals or others.

    Optiqua Technologies develops innovative water quality monitoring solutions. All Optiqua products leverage patented and awarded lab-on-chip sensor technology. Applications of Optiqua’s products include real-time online monitoring of drinking water supply and distribution, protection of critical infrastructures and the rapid detection of specific substances in water samples. Eventlab technology has been installed in various water networks around the world including Holland where a recent contamination event occurred.

    “As part of the smart water grid, Vitens has installed 44 Optiqua EventLab systems throughout its network to monitor water composition and detect water quality changes”

    Case Study 
    Vitens is the biggest drinking water supply company in the Netherlands, supplying high quality water to almost a third of the total population. Vitens is a technological front-runner in the water sector and is investing in smart water grid solutions to monitor the water quality during production as well as distribution. As part of the smart water grid, Vitens has installed 44 Optiqua EventLab systems throughout its network to monitor water composition and detect water quality changes. This network is installed in the Dutch province of Friesland and has been operational since 2013. On the 4th of October 2013 Vitens performed regular maintenance at one of their treatment plants. This necessitated the halt of production and a temporary reliance on storage reservoirs to maintain the water supply. Although production was planned to be offline for several hours, recurring software issues resulted in disrupted water production for 36 hours. In order to keep up the supply, input from a secondary plant was increased and production was restarted temporarily to top up the reservoirs. During these restarts, the process was run under manual control, resulting in significant fluctuations in water quality. Furthermore, on the 5th of October the treatment was accidentally operated without softening which resulted in water containing substantially higher levels of calcium being distributed. As the hardness exceeded consent limits, notification of critical customers, including health care centers and dialysis patients, became necessary. EventLab systems installed in the affected area monitored the water quality fluctuations. They also traced the water throughout the affected supply zone, providing information on the extent of the network affected. Finally, the return to normal quality could be determined based on refractive index values. In March 2014 Vitens, under controlled conditions, reproduced the contamination event. Again, EventLab responded, highlighting the water quality variation, tracing it through the distribution network. These experimentally measured travel times between monitoring locations allowed Viten’s to effectively fine-tune its hydraulic network model. The extensive installation of the EventLab system throughout its network allowed Vitens to: 
    •  detect the contamination in real-time 
    •  alert ‘at risk’ customers such as health care centers and hospitals
    •  take rapid action to protect at risk customers 
    •  proactively fine tune affected areas of the network 

    Other key benefits of the system:
    •  The technology can be easily installed or retrofitted into any existing water network and by doing so can effectively become an integral part of any truly ‘smart’ water network, grid and water treatment plant.
    •  The system is significantly lower cost because it removes the need for multiple sensors and has proven to be more effective at real-time water quality monitoring and detection of contamination incidents where other instruments (pre-set parameters) have only partially succeeded.
    Metito, a global provider of intelligent water and wastewater solutions and management systems in emerging markets, is collaborating with Optiqua, EvenLab patent holders, to make this new monitoring technology available throughout in the GCC and in key markets in Asia and Africa. With over 58 years of experience, Metito is the specialist for total intelligent water management solutions in the emerging markets with operations covering three business areas: design and build, specialty chemicals, and utilities.