Drinking Water Supply
System Upgrades and Future
Demand Assessments

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Justin TerryBy Justin Terry, CFM

In modern society, access to clean drinking water and the complexity of the systems that make this water available throughout our environment are often taken for granted. The source from which drinking water originates becomes equally as complex and problematic when water rights, a person’s right to utilize a water source (e.g., a river, stream, pond, or source of groundwater), are considered. This issue becomes more overwhelming as the population continues to expand and as water is increasingly viewed as a finite, and in some cases scarce, source. Because water is such a valuable resource, the need for well-designed and planned out supply systems that provide clean drinking water for user consumption is critical.

The price of water from the source to the consumer is increasing, so less water must be wasted and actions must be taken to prevent pipeline leakage. Shutting down the supply service to fix leaks is becoming increasing less tolerated by consumers. A sustainable water supply network must monitor the freshwater consumption rate and the waste-water generation rate. Many urban water supply networks in developing countries face problems related to population increase, water scarcity, and environmental pollution.

It is necessary to adopt a new approach to design urban water supply networks; water shortages are expected in the forthcoming decades and environmental regulations for water utilization and waste-water disposal are increasingly stringent. To achieve a sustainable water supply network, new sources of water are needed to be developed.

Three main components make up
drinking water supply systems:

  • Drinking water treatment plants: draw raw water supply from groundwater and surface water sources (i.e. aquifers and reservoirs) and provide treatment for public consumption
  • Booster stations: pressurize and move water throughout the distribution network
  • Distribution networks: made up of pipes and valves that control the flow throughout the network and connect to users

Because water is such a valuable resource, the need for well-designed and planned out supply systems that provide clean drinking water for user consumption is critical.

Water supply networks typically represent the majority of assets of water utility. Systems are characteristically designed to accommodate the needs of consumers (public, industry, medical facilities, etc.) for a period of no less than 20 years. Recently, however, population growth and rapid urban development are placing considerable stress on already aging infrastructure. The development of innovative water technologies provide flexibility to water supply system, generating a fundamental and effective means of sustainability based on an integrated approach.

Upgrades to existing systems, therefore, become critical to the resiliency of the water network and its ability to accommodate future demand. Often these upgrades involve increasing the size of a waterline for additional flow capacity or the addition of booster stations to increase the system pressure. Depending on the needs of a community, more extensive upgrades may be required, which typically result in upsizing existing treatments plants to accommodate higher demands or the addition of new plants entirely. These “bigger is better” solutions, however, do not address issues of network inefficiency, which negatively impact the ability for a system to meet future demands.

Technological advancements now allow us to create “smart” water networks that give utility providers the ability to collect data on pressures and usage in near-real-time. These systems are comprised of meters, valves, and pumps interconnected by a communication network. With real-time data collection, operators are able to adjust components to fit the needs of particular areas, identify sources of potential failures, and optimize the system as a whole. Smart systems, therefore, enhance monitoring and operation of rapidly growing networks to improve their ability to meet future demands.