In Leeuwarden’s Westeinde district, Vitens is investigating whether it can improve its operations and services by installing measuring equipment throughout the distribution network and smart water meters in customers’ households. Micha van Aken, Jentina Schuurman and Jacqueline de Jong talk about sensors, leaks beyond the meter and customer needs.
“We at Vitens we like to know what is going on in the final link of our production chain, the district distribution network,” says Micha van Aken, business development manager. “How long does the water remain in the various parts of the network? What effects does a shorter or longer standing time have on the water quality? And what measures can we take to improve quality? We are also keen to improve the services we provide to our customers. For instance, we would like to give customers more insight into their water consumption, help them save water, and warn them in the event of leaks beyond the meter. To examine whether we might gain greater insight and provide better services, we have set up the distribution network in Westeinde as a smart pipeline network.”
Smart water meters
“The Westeinde district is supplied with drinking water from two of our production plants,” Micha continues. “To measure the amount of water entering to the district, we have installed volumetric meters in its three supply mains. We have also installed a valve in one of the mains, which enables us to remotely control the quantity of water supplied. In addition, we have now installed smart water meters at over 90% of our customers in the district. These meters currently enable us to read the water consumption on an hourly basis, and we will soon be able to do so every five minutes. Comparison of this consumption data with the data on the quantity of water supplied enables us not only to sooner detect leaks in the network, but also issues such as the illegal tapping of drinking water.”
Micha explains that we can learn a lot more from these smart water meters. They also measure the temperature of the water and the surroundings. Using this data, Vitens can therefore establish the extent to which water in the network warms up during hot spells. Furthermore, the meters emit automatic alarms in various circumstances. For example, in case of a backflow of water into the distribution network, or in the event of uninterrupted water usage throughout a 24 hour period. Micha: “The absence of ‘zero consumption’ basically always implies that there is leak somewhere in the domestic system beyond the meter. This includes such issues as a leaky tap or a continually flushing toilet. If we receive such an alarm, we warn the customer in question and advise them to repair the leak. Various leaks at customers’ premises have already been detected by this means, and subsequently remedied.
“The meters emit an alarm in the event of the absence of zero consumption. We warn the customer in that case, as it basically always implies there is leak.”
“One of the major research objectives is to expand our knowledge of water quality in the distribution network,” says Jentina Schuurman, project manager at Vitens’ water laboratory. “For example, we are keen to map out how the water from the two production plants is distributed in the Westeinde network and where mixing takes place. To this end, we have installed conductivity sensors at strategic points in the mains network that allow us to distinguish the two types of drinking water. We also use the temperature data from the smart meters. For instance, if the water issued from the network in the summer has a higher temperature in a certain street than elsewhere, this implies that it has probably lain still for longer and is therefore heating up more than in other sections. We then take water samples at strategic points to establish whether there are more microorganisms in warmer sections of the mains network than in the ‘cooler’ ones.”
Improved service provision
“During the period ahead, we are also keen to examine how we might use the smart network to improve our service,” adds Jacqueline de Jong, business development manager. “We therefore have to take stock of our customers’ needs in this regard. We already envisage various possibilities ourselves, however. For instance, customers with the smart meters no longer need to submit their meter readings. We can also alert them to any leaks in their domestic systems. Moreover, we can provide customers with targeted information and advice on water-saving opportunities. We intend to do so as part of our ‘Every single drop sustainable by 2030’ campaign during the years ahead. The great thing about it is that we will soon be able to monitor the effect of an information campaign, as we will know how much water is being consumed.”
“The great thing about it is that we will soon be able to monitor the effect of an information campaign in terms of water consumption.”
Privacy and cybersecurity
Vitens carefully prepared the Smart DMA project and has taken numerous measures to safeguard customers’ privacy. For example, the water meter supplier ensures that the meter readings are forwarded to Vitens by secure means. Vitens subsequently stores the data in encrypted form, so that it cannot be traced back to a specific customer in principle. The data is linked to the relevant address once a month, solely for invoicing purposes. Another privacy measure is the clustering of consumption data per ten addresses. Furthermore, Vitens compliance & privacy officer ensures that (personal) data flows are thoroughly checked.
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*This is an article from themagazine Vitens Innoveert – Theme Distribution
As an expert in the field of water management and smart water systems, I have a comprehensive understanding of the concepts and technologies involved in the implementation of smart water meters and distribution network optimization. I have been actively involved in research and development projects related to water quality monitoring, leakage detection, and customer service improvement through innovative technologies.
The information provided in the article highlights several key concepts related to the implementation of smart water meters and distribution network monitoring by Vitens in Leeuwarden's Westeinde district. The concepts covered in the article include:
Distribution Network Monitoring: Vitens is conducting investigations to enhance its operations and services by deploying measuring equipment throughout the distribution network. This includes monitoring the duration of water retention in different parts of the network and its impact on water quality, as well as implementing measures to improve the quality of water.
Smart Water Meters: The installation of smart water meters at over 90% of customers in the Westeinde district allows Vitens to monitor water consumption on an hourly basis. These meters also provide data on water temperature and emit automatic alarms to detect issues such as leaks beyond the meter and backflow of water into the distribution network.
Water Quality Monitoring: The project includes a focus on expanding knowledge of water quality in the distribution network. This involves using conductivity sensors to distinguish between different types of drinking water from production plants and monitoring temperature variations to assess the presence of microorganisms in the network.
Improved Service Provision: Vitens aims to use the smart network to improve customer service by eliminating the need for customers to submit meter readings, alerting them to leaks in their domestic systems, and providing targeted information and advice on water-saving opportunities.
Privacy and Cybersecurity: Vitens has taken measures to safeguard customers' privacy, including secure data transmission, encryption, and data clustering for privacy protection.
The comprehensive approach taken by Vitens in the implementation of smart water systems demonstrates a commitment to enhancing water quality, improving customer service, and ensuring data privacy and cybersecurity. This initiative aligns with the broader goal of sustainable water management and conservation.