WaterWorld | By: William Steel | March, 2019:
Note: This article is Part 2 of a series. Read about the three part series here.
A hallmark of water supply in Denmark is its being planned and managed with twofold appreciation for water as a valuable resource and the need to be mindful of energy consumption. Prioritizing across these levels has led Danish utilities to being at the forefront of developing smart water networks, fit for the twenty-first century.
In several notable municipalities the outcomes are plain to see. Non-revenue water (NRW) is remarkably low throughout Denmark, but across the utilities of 3VAND — representing water utilities of the cities Copenhagen, Odense and Aarhus together providing water to 2 million people — it is just 6%. Meanwhile, national security of supply is practically 100%.
Estimates put global NRW at 126 billion m3/year, costing some $39 billion/year (Liemberger & Wyatt, 2018), and average global NRW above 30%. Given these numbers, it’s of clear importance that awareness and access to viable solutions are supported.
In Denmark, a variety of tools and efforts have been put in place to deliver such a low NRW level, and the nation has a formalized ambition to support the tunneling of its solutions and expertise to outside regions.
Klavs Høgh, project director for water supply at the Danish engineering consultancy company NIRAS, remarks on his perspective on Denmark’s transition to having some of the lowest water loss rates in the world, saying: “In many places around the world, water loss is unfortunately very high — but we have proven that solutions can be implemented to dramatically improve that situation.”
Mette Neerup Jeppesen, manager for water supply at NIRAS, adds: “Having progressed through a long process to get NRW so low, we’re now in a position to share knowledge with others so they don’t have to go through the long learning process we went through. It has become a fundamental part of NIRAS business philosophy to support sustainable operations, and contribute to UN sustainable development goals (SDGs), wherever we can. We generally make great efforts to think more sustainably.’
The reasoning, Neerup Jeppesen explains, is simple: “Both because we feel a responsibility to contribute to the technological development moving that direction and because it is very often is associated with healthy finances for our customers.”
Interestingly, the efforts have led to outcomes credited with greater value than first envisioned, as Neerup Jeppesen notes: “Ten years ago, we didn’t know how significant lowering NRW would be, but it’s especially clear now in light of energy and water targets, and the SDGs.”
Supply As An Integrated System:
What emerges from reviewing the ingredients to Danish success with NRW is that there is no single solution, but rather a myriad of pieces to the puzzle, set in place with a holistic approach to planning infrastructure and managing operations. This latter dimension is described by Høgh as, “treating the whole distribution system as one integrated system.”
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