management of drinking water
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Optimizing water management and tracking pollutants

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Water quality and intelligent system management are among the main concerns of businesses and communities that deliver water to the tap. Deciphering.
 
Since 1970, the communes have been entrusted with the management of water services. They have the choice of either directly taking over the management of their water services (water abstraction from the natural environment, water potabilization and distribution) and sanitation services (collection, transport and treatment of wastewater, disposal or recovery of sludge produced during treatment) or of entrusting these operations, in whole or in part, to specialized private companies. The intervention of a private operator can, for its part, take various forms: service delegation contracts (leasing, concession, interested management) or provision of services.
 
In France, in 2012, 69 % of public drinking water utilities (representing 39 % of the population) were directly managed by a competent authority.
 
Some 8,900 public service delegation contracts (4,700 for drinking water and 4,200 for sanitation) were accounted for in 2010, concerning, for drinking water, three fifths of the French population (40 % for sanitation).
 
In the same year, the water utilities achieved a turnover of about 5.2 billion euros excluding taxes in the water and sanitation sector in France, including nearly 5 billion euros for delegated services and a little more than 0.2 billion euros for other services to local authorities.
 
Overall, three companies share the market: Veolia (world leader, 34.5 % of the population served with drinking water in 2010), Suez Environnement (19.5 % of the population served with drinking water in 2010 via La Lyonnaise des Eaux) and Saur (10.8 % of the population served with drinking water in 2010).
 
According to a BIPE study, water companies spent €126 million on research and development in 2010. The R&D activities carried out by water companies" have enabled "technological leaps" to be made in the field of water and sanitation management and the protection of natural environments. »
 
Pollutant detection: a priority
 
Priority research areas include the development of new analytical techniques for the detection of micropollutants in water and the development of new treatment processes, which are also of concern to innovative start-ups and companies with innovative and promising technologies.
 
The water distributed is, in fact, one of the most controlled food products. The Regional Health Agencies (ARS) carried out more than 11 million analyses in 2010 on all public water and sanitation services (governance and delegated management). In addition to these controls, the operators themselves monitor water quality throughout the production and distribution process. A total of 6.6 million analyses were thus carried out in 2010 on the services operated by the water utilities.
 
Pollutant measurements are carried out in the laboratory using conventional technologies (Chromatography, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, mass spectroscopy) while new approaches are being explored, in particular using biosensors which have the advantage of being able to measure in situ. Optical-photonic technologies are helping. Optical sensors and biosensors equip the instruments in order to measure, for example, the emission of a fluorescence, the angle of a refraction or a wavelength.
 
As an example, Prestodiag has developed PlasmIA™ (Plasmonic ImmunoAssay™), a marker-free optical technology for the multiplex detection of bacteria (Salmonella, Listeria, Escherichia coli, etc.) in complex samples, an innovation that can be easily adapted for the simultaneous detection of Legionella and Legionella pneumophila in drinking water pipes.
 
NICTs at the service of optimised water management
 
In addition to health and environmental issues, the real-time management of networks using new technologies is now a key concern for managers. Smart water" represents a world market estimated at 16.3 billion dollars between now and 2020, according to the American firm Lux Research, an information which will be published in 2012 on the website actu-environnement. Optical technologies in this field particularly concern leak detection. The state of networks can, for example, be inspected by endoscopy, using fibre optics and a video probe. Infrared cameras also offer the possibility of visualising temperature variations of different materials by means of thermography. On large structures, the detection and localization of leaks can be carried out by Fibre Optics Distributed as proposed by the company Cementys.
 
For several years now, water distribution network operators have also been deploying so-called smart water meters that communicate their data by radio to GSM relays. Neck and neck in the deployment of these meters in France, with 1 million and 1.3 million connected respectively, Suez Environnement and Veolia are now vying for the data processing market, "the next stage in the battle for 'smart water'", according to the GreenUnivers.com site.
 
Water management has entered the data age. "The challenge for us is not to be overtaken in the IT and intelligent data part at a time when the profession is evolving towards disintermediation, as has happened in the hotel business or in travel with the arrival of players such as Booking.com or Expedia", Saur Group Executive Chairman Olivier Brousse recalled in the press in December 2013.
 
Photonics, a scattering technology, provides solutions for the detection and treatment of pollutants. Optical sensors are also a necessary building block for the collection of data that is essential for the development of smart watering. Opticsvalley, the Paris Region high-tech network, has decided to shed light on the contributions of this technology, a source of innovation and new solutions. The theme of its next seminar will be "The challenges of water in the city: Photonics solutions". This day of conferences and exchanges will be held on the following topics November 27, 2015 at the IBM France headquarters in Bois-Colombes.
 
Yaël Landau, Optics Valley - November 24, 2015
 
Sources :
- Eaufrance.fr, public information service on water and aquatic environments.
- 5th edition of the FP2E (Fédération Professionnelle des Entreprises de l'Eau)/BIPE report on public water supply and sanitation utilities, 2012
- GreenUnivers.com and Les Echos press sites
- Prestodiag and Cementys website
 

The Water Framework Directive: a regulatory framework

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) gives concrete expression to EU water policy. It sets ambitious objectives for the preservation and restoration of the status of surface waters (freshwater and coastal waters) and groundwater, defining a framework, a working method and deadlines.
Earlier, more specific directives, such as those on drinking water supplies, bathing water, urban waste water and nitrates of agricultural origin remain in force.
The general objective of the WFD is to achieve good status of the various aquatic environments throughout Europe by 2015, which means managing water resources sustainably, preserving aquatic ecosystems and groundwater from pollution, supplying the population with good quality drinking water, limiting polluting discharges and involving the users.
In concrete terms, the assessment of good status of surface water bodies depends on good chemical status (defined on the basis of the concentration of 41 hazardous or priority chemical substances) and ecological "good status" of waters, with good ecological status being the result of an intersection between the physico-chemical and biological status of waters. Good groundwater status is, for its part, assessed on the basis of good chemical status (compliance with environmental quality standards for man-made pollutants) and quantitative status (balance between abstraction and renewal capacity).

 

Water policy 2016 - 2021: prevention rather than cure

The National Water Committee, an advisory body to the Minister for the Environment, met on Tuesday 7 July 2015. It recalled the main lines of a new water policy for 2016:
- Reinforce the prevention of pollution (nitrates, phytosanitary products, micropollutants) rather than having to carry out costly treatments that weigh on the water bill.
- Fighting against waste and promoting economical management of water resources
- Improving the management of aquatic environments, restoring ecological continuity and combating soil artificialisation
- Making the water sector a lever for economic activity and the creation of jobs that cannot be relocated
- Take into account the impact of climate change and the priorities to be set by COP 21
 
In June 2013, Onema, the water agencies and the ministry in charge of ecology, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, launched a call for projects entitled "Innovation and changes in practices: micropollutants in urban water", a call that was part of the national plan to combat micropollutants. The 13 selected projects were made public by Ségolène Royal, Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, on 23 July. They will mobilize local authorities and their local private partners as well as laboratories over 5 years (2014 - 2018). Among the initiatives rewarded, those relating to changes in the practices of users and professionals figure prominently.
 
 

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