Ensuring quality and supply of urban water
Sara, 40 years old, is the manager of a water treatment plant in Spain, where she controls the water quality by taking periodic samples and adding chemicals to prepare it for human consumption. The use of these chemicals and related processes involve a high financial cost that grows when the quality of the water is threatened by factors such as heavy rain that increases water turbidity or droughts that can increase concentration of some pollutants.
The challenge for Sara
During periods of heavy rain, Sara knows that her work of ensuring the quality of water will be complicated. Indeed, the correct activation of measures regarding water sources and treatment are key to limit health and safety risks to urban populations, reduce impacts on the environment and ensure the financial balance of water companies. Sudden increases of river turbidity due to heavy rainfall can be usually coped with by first using higher doses of chemicals and closely monitoring filters. However, in case of prolonged or very high-turbidity events, Sara has to go for a more radical decision: the water intake should be cut off and alternative sources, if any are available at that time, should be used. Yet, the aquifers that could be deployed as a safeguard, are often not available for use due to their overexploitation as a result of frequent drought periods in the area, which poses an additional challenge for Sara.
During periods of low precipitation, other difficulties arise. When a drought is declared, managers of the water basins have to save water as river flows are very light and the water quality is poor. When the availability of water is low, the quality of the little water available can be so poor that the water has to be treated with chemical products that are very expensive and have a negative impact on the quality of the water leaving the water treatment plant.
In both situations, well-informed decisions are the key to using chemical treatments which do not come with a huge financial cost or negatively impact the consumers. Until now, Sara has dealt with the type of situations described above on the basis of past experiences (e.g. several turbidity issues that she had in the plant in past years), but the practices could be improved thanks to the IMPREX project.
Solving the challenge with IMPREX
IMPREX’s meteorological forecasts will help Sara to anticipate the effects of these heavy rain and drought episodes that affect water quality and, as a result, to update the company’s emergency plans and operational measures. In this way, her work can be made easier and safer and a supply of good quality water to the users can be better ensured. In addition, by introducing enhanced climate projections in forecast models for the urban water sector, IMPREX will also provide a long-term vision to Sara and other water planners.
Taking into account the impact of climate change, it is well possible that people like Sara will be faced with high impact weather events at their work more frequently in the future. Hence, we must know when more water treatment will be needed in order to be prepared and to avoid potential negative impacts.
It is through this kind of information that the IMPREX project could add value to this sector and facilitate Sara’s work in critical situations allowing her to be confident about the decisions she makes, and helping her sleep well at night!