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Tools for improving water supply networks management

The IMAQUA Project is aimed at improving the control of the quality and quantity of water throughout the supply network. A real-time system for monitoring pollutants and helping the decision-making will be developed. Also, tools for display and simulation will be developed, to give managers an easy access to the whole information. It is a European RISCAT Project, and will be tested in Sabadell and Barcelona.

The IMAQUA Project is aimed at improving the control of the quality and quantity of water throughout the supply network. The IMAQUA project is led by Eurecat and the partners are the IDAEA-CSIC, CASSA, Proveïments d’Aigua, the University of Girona, BGEO, Aigües de Barcelona, the University Rovira i Virgili, S:: can and ADASA Systems.

The project has a budget of 1.7 Million Euros, partially funded by the ERDF program of the European Union.

As a first step, the scientists are developing an integrated sampling device for monitoring pollutants. In this regard, scientific teams from the IDAEA-CSIC (the team led by Sílvia Lacorte), Aigües de Barcelona (Maria Rosa Boleda), University Rovira i Virgili (Rosa Maria Marcé) and from the Institute of Materials Science in Aragon of the CSIC (Victor Orera) have cooperated to characterize a huge amount of organic pollutants in water.

A ceramic passive sampler for trapping pollutants

For this task, the CSIC scientists have designed a ceramic passive sampler, which is made of a porous material. As water passes through the cylinder, all pollutants get trapped into this adsorbent material. There are different samplers with different pore sizes, what changes the diffusivity and therefore the speed of the sampler catching pollutants depending on the type of water. This device has been patented in Europe (P201530882).

After being calibrated and validated, several passive samplers will be placed throughout the water supply network. “This passive sampler can ‘catch’ virtually all pollutants in the water, even the ones that appear occasionally, which could be unnoticed when monitoring is done by intermittent sampling”, says Silvia Lacorte.

Afterwards, the samples are taken to the labs for being analyzed. The target pollutants can be divided in three big groups: the ones included in the priority list of current European regulations (Directive 2013/39); the emergent pollutants (a group that includes drugs and drugs of abuse); and pesticides. The three groups of compounds will be analyzed in the laboratories at Aigües de Barcelona, University Rovira i Virgili and IDAEA-CSIC, respectively.

Several methodologies will be used for these analyses, in order to obtain the full picture of pollution in waters of different origins (river, treated, distribution).  This also will allow finding out the effectiveness of the treatment plant.

Experimental assays in water supply networks from Barcelona

Now, the scientists are working in two water treatment plants in the cities of Sabadell and Sant Joan Despí, both in Barcelona province. In both plants, several passive samplers will be installed at some strategic points, such as the collection point, where water is collected from the river, points along the treatment processes and at the exit, where treated water is pumped out to the distribution network. 

As Silvia Lacorte explains, “placing the passive sampler into the water flow during periods from days to a month will make possible to find out all the pollutants which are in the water during that time”.

The IMAQUA solution integrates water quality control with tools for monitoring networks and decision-making support, as well as visualization and simulation tools, which provide water managers with access to comprehensive information of the whole  infrastructure. The system will help managers to control the network and to take decisions for ensuring the quality and quantity of water.

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