The Valencia model: the water of the 21st century

El modelo de València: el agua del siglo XXI

Valencia is a city known internationally for many reasons, including its relationship with water resources: Valencia is Albufera, it is the ancestral irrigation of the surrounding orchards and an example of the orderly use of the flows of the Turia, symbolised by the Tribunal of Waters. However, the relationship between Valencia and water is not just a centuries-old tradition that has endured. In the last 15 years, the technology and know-how associated with the supply of water to the city and its metropolitan area have become a model for other cities seeking to be in the vanguard by imitating Valencia’s breakthroughs in digitalisation and the use of data. The greatest example of this is what is known as the digital “twin”.

The water supply network of Valencia and the metropolitan area is operated from the Vara de Quart Control Centre, which is home to the digital twin. The network is made up of 200 kilometres of pipes ranging from 40 to 160 centimetres, through which water from the Picassent (Júcar) and Manises (Turia) drinking water treatment plants is conveyed to the streets of the city and 48 other municipalities.

The management of this complex supply system has been entrusted to the Empresa Mixta Metropolitana Sociedad Anónima (EMIMET), which is responsible for the upstream water service, production and supply to the municipal distribution point. In the case of the city of Valencia, Emivasa, a mixed company created by the Valencia City Council and the Global Omnium Group, also a shareholder in EMIMET, plays a leading role.

Technology

The water supply to the metropolitan area of Valencia entails real-time monitoring and analysis of hundreds of hydraulic and water quality parameters. Valves and pumps are activated based on the data transmitted to the Vara de Quart Control Centre, in order to guarantee the supply of water to industries and homes.

Sensor installation and digitalisation of this extensive network encompassed the creation of an Operational Technology Data Processing Centre (CPD-OT), from which 220 remote control installations are monitored and acted upon. Over 300 pipe pressure data, 226 flow data, 68 water quality data, as well as data from 44 pumps, 166 motorised valves and 4 hydraulic turbines that generate energy are transmitted 24/7 to the control centre panels.

Arantxa Gamón, a manager at the Control Centre, explains that the entire network generates 1,700 data per second, enabling the monitoring of 15,000 alarm indicators. To date, the system has enabled the storage of 15 million daily records of hydraulic, electrical or water quality values. “The remote-control equipment is responsible for collecting this data, processing it and converting it into real-time information for the control room operator or for data storage and subsequent analysis in network models,” she points out.

In addition to monitoring, the system implemented in Valencia also enables network operation, either by converting the orders sent by the operators in the control room into actions on elements such as valves, pumps, etc., or by facilitating the input of intelligent algorithms developed by Global Omnium that guarantee correct network operation.

The control centre, which is manned 24/7, issued 301,490 orders in the last year. These orders are converted into actions, either directly by the operator or through the algorithms implemented in the system.

This wealth of information, guaranteed by a telecommunications system shielded against cyber-attacks, is complemented by almost 450,000 meters with remote reading capabilities installed in the city of Valencia, which offer millions of real-time data on consumption parameters.

In addition to the control centre capable of operating the network based on real-time information, the digital twin makes it possible to carry out simulations of how the network will behave in the event of certain actions taken by the technicians responsible or the impact of external events such as episodes of extreme heat, breakages, etc.

In this regard, Global Omnium CEO, Dionisio García Comín, highlights the importance of overcoming the problem of millions of data accumulating in a “silo” without being used. This requires investment in research, such as that carried out by Global Omnium in recent years, which has led to the creation of theGoAigua technology platform, currently implemented by over 400 water supply utilities worldwide.

The benefits of the Valencia model are evident: in the domestic sphere, complaints about estimated consumption have fallen by 60%. An average of 470 major leaks and 1,250 minor leaks are detected monthly in the internal installations of customers, the rapid repair of which has saved users 200,000 cubic metres of water. In total, the implementation of remote metering in Valencia has achieved savings of 3.4 cubic hectometres, resulting in a reduction in CO2 emissions of 950 tonnes per annum.

According to the management at GoAigua, Global Omnium’s technological platform based on the pioneering model of Valencia makes it possible to reduce non-revenue water, detect invisible leaks, optimise the service life of installations, reduce costs, save water and improve the capacity of the supply system to withstand extreme events such as those potentially associated with climate change.