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Integrated Solution for a Smart Water Network

Andrea Gallina and Donato Gerardo Pasquale


Acqua Novara.VCO S.p.A. is the company managing the water and wastewater services in the Provinces of
Novara and Verbano Cusio Ossola (VCO), in Northern Italy.
In recent years, to improve its efficiency and the quality of service to its customers Acqua Novara.VCO heavily
invested in upgrading the infrastructure (especially in the wastewater treatment area of the business) and stand-
ardizing operational processes and working tools, with special attention to the introduction of technology in-
In the year 2014, the company launched the “Smart Water” initiative to acquire best-in-class Operational Tech-
nology applications, including new SCADA, Workforce Management and Water Loss Management integrated
systems to achieve a smart water network.
The main technical objectives that the Smart Water initiative addresses are the reduction of water losses and
energy consumption to cut down operating costs and secure the long-term resilience of water supplies.

The Challenges of Acqua Novara.VCO

Like many Italian water utilities, Acqua Novara.VCO faced many challenges associated to the aggregation of
the heterogenous entities which previously managed the water services and the general situation of underin-
vestment in the water sector.
The biggest effort in the early years of the company was to transform different subjects into one company,
standardizing processes and procedures and migrating to centralized management systems.
On the wastewater side of the business the main problems were the limited treatment capacity of several plants
and the extreme scattering of plants. This situation led to diseconomies and limited the ability to improve
effluent quality.
In recent years Acqua Novara.VCO heavily invested in increasing the treatment capacity and plant efficiency.
Currently the wastewater treatment service coverage reaches 91% of the population, with a total capacity of
622.000 population equivalent (PE), exceeding current needs. The current average removal level of nitrogen
and phosphorous is 75%.
Still there is a problem associated to plant sizing: the largest WwTP (serving the town of Novara) has a capacity
of 185.000 PE. Only 21 WwTPs have a capacity greater than 2.000 PE, while the 165 smallest plants have an
average capacity lesser than 200 PE.
The water supply infrastructure is characterized by the fact that each town/village has its own water distribution
network fed by local water sources with essentially no interconnections to neighbor areas. This can be ex-
plained with the high availability of water resources of good quality in the area. These circumstances led to
inefficiencies in the operations (high water losses and energy consumptions) and poses serious concerns about

service resilience, as a drought or water quality issues in a local water source would cause major service dis-
In previous years, the company carried out extensive campaigns to install/replace flowmeters and customer
meters, digitize water networks and run leakage surveys, additionally to improve the efficiency of pumping
stations. Nevertheless, the overall water supply performance is still low, with an average water loss of 35%
and an average unit energy consumption of 1,36 kWh/m3 which is rather high considering that most water is
supplied by gravity.

The Strategy and Objectives of Acqua Novara.VCO

Acqua Novara.VCO has set ambitious targets to improve the service to its customers, deliver performance
meeting or exceeding regulatory requirements, and reduce the environmental impacts according to the princi-
ples of circular economy.
The capital expenditure (CAPEX) plan for the next three years has, as its main lines of actions, investment

• Optimizing wastewater treatment plant operations, maximizing the energy production and the availa-
bility of recycled water for non-potable uses;
• Securing the long-term resilience of water supplies, increasing storage capacity, interconnecting sys-
tems and better managing water sources.
Overall Acqua Novara.VCO plans to invest 40 million of Euro over the next three years.
A proper level of investment in infrastructure is a critical success factor. However, there are other elements
as important as this to achieve efficient water services management. Acqua Novara.VCO developed a strat-
egy based on the belief that successful water services management relies on a proper combination of infra-
structure, business knowledge and technology.

Figure 1. The pyramid of efficient water services management

The key elements for efficient water services management illustrated in figure 1 are:
• Will – Water utility management begins by setting up a favorable corporate environment to address
the efficiency issue.
• Processes and organization – All utility departments need to be coordinated around the issue manag-
ing team resources and presenting performance results. This forces attention around the efficient man-
agement of the water distribution network.
• Information technology – This combination of hardware, software, and services enables the digitiza-
tion process to take hold so that analysis is possible of the new, large volume of data that needs to be
produced to properly monitor operations throughout the network.
• Sensors – These devices are installed to gather data and pass it along to the network in an intelligent
manner. Thus, measurement is now much more accurate and this leads to more effective decisions.
Proper measurement is foundational since it enables an organization to validate whether initiatives
taken are having a positive impact.
• Infrastructure – Proper design and maintenance are critical success factors to implement effective
network management. However, it is important to recognize that improving existing infrastructure is
a long-term and costly process.
All the above elements must be present to achieve success as any shortcut to this approach will not provide a
sustainable solution.
Following this approach, in 2014 Acqua Novara.VCO set as its main objective the operational efficiency im-
provement in the water supply system. Specifically, the company identify the following targets:
• Unified procedures and centralized control of water supply operations;
• 10% water loss reduction (equivalent to 6 Mm3/year of water saved);
• 15% water supply energy consumption reduction.

The Smart Water Initiative

The “Smart Water” initiative was launched in year 2014 to support the achievement of previously presented
targets and consists of a series of projects to provide Acqua Novara.VCO with best-in-class Operational Tech-
nology (OT) tools.
In what was most likely an unprecedented challenge within the Italian water industry, several corporate sys-
tems were introduced or replaced within a four-year period:
• Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) - Integration of existing telemetry systems in one
SCADA and creation of a centralized control room.
• Geographic Information System (GIS) – Completion of distribution network survey and digitization
also in preparation of hydraulic modelling.
• Work Force Management (WFM) – Implementation of a new system to manage the process of work
orders management.
• Hydraulic Modelling – Buildup of models of the most important towns and creation of a real-time
model integrated with SCADA in pilot area.
• Water Loss Management System – Implementation of a new system managing the leakage manage-
ment process for the entire company, integrated with SCADA, GIS, WFM and ERP (billing and fi-
A key aspect of the Smart Water Network is the extensive integration of systems to aggregate data and spread
value added information as needed by each department across the entire organization of Acqua Novara.VCO.

The current technology landscape in Acqua Novara.VCO is represented in figure 2.

Figure 2. The technological landscape of Acqua Novara.VCO

The SCADA Project

The SCADA is the most critical OT system for a water and wastewater utility, allowing 24/7 remote supervi-
sion and control of infrastructure and assets. Quality and safety of the service heavily rely on SCADA and
control room operations.
Additionally, SCADA is the main data source for a wide array of processes that require the knowledge of
operational parameters.
For these reasons, the new SCADA represented the cornerstone of the Smart Water program.
The initial situation was characterized by extreme fragmentation and incompleteness:
• Six different supervisory systems;
• Five different types of data transmission media (radio, GSM, PSTN, GPRS, ADSL);
• Eight different Remote Terminal Units (RTU) vendors;
• Around 200 production points (one fourth of total) were not metered;
• Half of existing field sensors were to be replaced because obsolete or unfit to transmit data.
The objectives of the project can be summarized as follows:
• Unified supervisory system with unique standard for data validation;
• Two types of transmission (radio and GPRS/UMTS);
• Maximum three types of RTUs;
• Unified 24/7 control room.

The technology that was selected was ClearSCADA by Schneider Electric. The main selection criteria were:
• Ability to capture reliable data from challenging remote locations and retrieve remotely;
• Modern object-oriented architecture;
• Strong protocols (DNP3 and IEC60870-5-104);
• Ease of integration with field devices;
• Support of mobile devices (tablet, smartphones).
The architecture of the new SCADA is presented in figure 3.

Figure 3. The architecture of new Acqua Novara.VCO’s SCADA

The Water Loss Management System Project

Leakage is one of the most significant sustainability issues facing today’s water industry.
When leakage management is addressed as a business issue, many organizations make the mistake of limiting
their response to that of leak detection. Leaks tend to occur again and again, usually with more frequency over
time. The current, short-term approach for most utilities is to periodically conduct a network survey and to
find the leaks. Once found, the leaks are repaired, and the resulting efficiency improvements are measured to
evaluate the benefits of the repairs (this is referred to as “short cycle” of leakage management).
Unfortunately, if hydraulic conditions in the network do not change or structural interventions are not put in
place, the problem is likely to repeat itself in short order. This is the reason why investment in pressure man-
agement implementation and water mains and service connections replacement should be considered. Such
actions will help reduce the “baseline leakage level” also referred to as the “long cycle” of leakage management
(see figure 4).

Figure 4. The two cycles of leakage management

As previously stated, water loss is one of the main areas of concern for Acqua Novara.VCO and driving down
the leakage level is one of company’s top priorities from an operational perspective.
Based on this Acqua Novara.VCO decided to acquire a specific software tool to support the water loss man-
agement process, with the following main features:
• Leakage and water balance calculation in distribution networks;
• Prioritization and monitoring for active leakage control;
• Reporting - Business Intelligence;
• Capability of integration with other relevant corporate systems.
The technology that was selected was the WMS (Water Management Suite) by Schneider Electric.
The WMS is based on the UK water industry best practices (UKWIR) and International Water Association
(IWA) pillars for water loss reduction and control:
• Active leakage control;
• Speed and quality of repairs;
• Pressure management;
• Pipeline and asset management.
The system is based on systems integration and the synchronization and sharing of different enterprise data-
bases (“one version of the truth”).
The most important integration is that with the SCADA, with near-real time data exchange.
Additionally, the WMS periodically imports information on assets from the GIS (ArcGIS/ESRI), on customer
consumption and work order costs from the ERP (NETA/Engineering) and integrates to the WFM (ClickSoft-
ware) for the issuing and supervision of leak detection and repair work orders (figure 5).

Figure 5. The WMS integration landscape at Acqua Novara.VCO

The WMS project started in January 2017 and was completed in October 2017.
Acqua Novara expects the WMS to dramatically improve the company’s performance in water loss, helping
to achieve the targets set (reduction of 6 Mm3 of water lost), through:
• Quicker network events detection and improved response times;
• Optimal use of leak detection team, prioritizing the areas to be surveyed based on technical and eco-
nomic objective criteria;
• Leak detection and repair process streamlining;
• Continuous performance monitoring with dynamic dashboard.
The initial outcomes of the WMS implementation are promising both in terms of actionable data for leak
detection campaign and system acceptance within the organization (figures 6, 7 and 8).

Figure 6. Example of a WMS chart presenting leakage and distribution input in a district metered area of Acqua Novara.VCO

Figure 7. Example of a WMS thematic map presenting leakage levels in different municipalities served by Acqua Novara.VCO

Figure 8. Example of a WMS water balance per IWA standard in a municipality served by Acqua Novara.VCO

In recent years Acqua Novara.VCO embarked in an ambitious program of investment which most innovative
part was the Smart Water initiative that led, among other measures, to the deployment of a series of new
interconnected Operational Technology applications (SCADA, WFM, water loss management systems) that
now form the backbone of Acqua Novara.VCO integrated Smart Water Network.
The concept of Acqua Novara.VCO Smart Water Network has been developed with a clear objective to address
the company’s most compelling operational needs (complete the “industrialization” of the service, reduce leak-
age, decrease energy consumption) and to be able to further expand to address future business requirements.

Acknowledgements Acqua Novara.VCO would like to acknowledge the company Schneider Electric for its con-
tribution to this paper. Schneider Electric is currently the main technology partner of Acqua Novara.VCO, having im-
plemented most of the new Operational Technology software of the Smart Water initiative, plus several hardware
(RTU, PLC, sensors), all belonging to Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure architecture. EcoStruxure guarantees native
integration between Schneider Electric’s products and is open to third parties’ applications and devices supporting in-
dustry standard communication protocols for an integrated smart water network. The Authors wish to thank Alessandro
Garavaglia (Acqua Novara.VCO), Ivan Nazzaretto (Schneider Electric), Giovanni Piazzalunga (Schneider Electric) for
their contribution.