Date Published: Aug. 1, 2017, 11:08 p.m.
hen the city of Guarulhos faced water shortage in 2013 followed-up by financial restraint, the Municipal Company of Water and Sewage, used Information and Communication Technologies to improve measurement of water pipes and reduce water losses.
Guarulhos is a city with 1.3 million people, located in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. The municipality estimates that 98,32% of its population has access to water services and 83,99% to sewage and sanitation services. However, since 2014, the metropolitan region is facing a water crisis due to lack of rain; challenging the water supply service, and, to face the problem, a rotation system had to be implemented, leaving several areas of the city with irregular access to water. The challenges in water distribution are accentuated by an important increase in the demand (every year Guarulhos receives 30,000 new inhabitants) and by high levels of losses in distribution (35% of the water distributed was lost before it arrived to the end consumer in 2013, mainly due to leakages, clandestine connections, measurement errors and theft). In addition, the Water State Company (SABESP), that supply the water distribution, to the regions’ municipal utilities, reduced the flow of its water supply by 32,5% from 2013 to 2015. During the same period, the inhabitants and the industry of Guarulhos reduced their water consumption. As a consequence, the Autonomous Service of Water and Sewage (Serviço Autônomo de Água e Esgoto –SAAE), the municipal company in charge of water management saw its water billing revenue decrease by 39% from 2013 to 2014. Thus, the Guarulhos municipal water utility had its capacity to face the crisis diminished and needed to adopt actions that would reduce non-revenue water and optimize water management efficiency.
During the past decade, the municipality of Guarulhos through the SAAE implemented a strong policy of water losses reduction. As a result, the non-revenue water went from 51,06% of total water distributed in 2000 to 35% in 2013; before the water crisis. Besides this success, the water utility still faced challenges in monitoring its non-revenue water, in particular: (i) difficulty in obtaining information (important delays in collecting information, not updated cadastres and registries of network infrastructure), (ii) a lack of reliability on the information collected from water meters (errors in measurement regarding the volume of water provided to consumers, does making difficult to determine the exact amount of real and apparent water loss), (iii) lack of information collected about the shape and performance of the network infrastructure, (iv) a lack of monitoring tools to analyse the state of the water network.
In order to reduce the amount of non-revenue water, the SAAE Guarulhos identified the need to improve data collection, and in 2014 implemented four initiatives using SMART technologies.
Despite its recent implementation, the SAAE initiative to improve water loss control has yielded important results. The actions have improved the data collection system (automated and in real time); increased the quantity of available information regarding water volume and pressure and the amount of water loss (both real and apparent); ensured the reliability and quality of the information; improved knowledge about the state of the infrastructure. Better knowledge allows the utility to improve planning and decision making. The initiatives have also enabled SAAE to improve the identification of anomalies in the system. Consequently, water losses have been importantly reduced since the beginning of the implementation of actions going from 35% of total water distributed in 2013 to 28,10% in 2016. Looking at the concrete example of the neighbourhood of Bonsucesso, SAAE observed that from November 2013 to November 2015, water losses went from 868 to 212 litres per day per branch, meaning a 400% reduction in water losses. By reducing water losses, the utility was able to improve water distribution to the population. In fact, although SAAE faced difficulties due to the water crisis and saw its water supply and revenue reduce (32,5% for the water supply from SABESP and 39% in revenue from billing between 2013 and 2014), its innovative actions have improved water distribution to Guarulhos’ consumers, which had a lower reduction of 5% in 2014 and 17% in 2015 compared to 2013.
While implementing these initiatives SAAE found challenging to implement telemetry systems in the whole city at a quick pace, keeping up with technological changes. To ensure the success of the initiative, SAAE had to be very careful when choosing the meter technology and the negotiation with vendors and service providers. Training to operators in using the new tools was essential to ensure the success of the initiative. Using only internal financial and human resources allowed a quick development process and an increased acceptance and support of the actions from SAEE employees.