Shared access adds value to research on critical valves

German research centre Kompetenzzentrum Wasser Berlin (KWB) has taken a step towards helping improve the management of water system valves in the country following the launch of a study with a small municipality to use a tool originally developed in the Netherlands. The tool is Called OptiValves, which, as its name suggests, is intended to enable optimal valve maintenance programmes to be created.

KWB has gained access to the tool by joining the Watershare programma of Dutch research centre KWR Watercycle Research Institute. The programme encompasses a range of 16 tools such as the Fresh Keeper, a solution for the sustainable supply of fresh water in saline environments, and the City Blueprint, a quick scan that allows cities to check their water performance. These tools are designed to help programma members with a myriad of complex sector challenges, including water quality and health, sustainability and asset design and management.The initiative also provides support for members in understanding topics and enables expertise and experience to be shared through research programmes.

Identifying critical valves

The attraction of OptiValves for municipalities is based on the fact that networks are almost universally developed piece by piece as conurbations develop, rather than being developed as a homogenous whole. Parts are then repaired or renewed as time passes.This means that over a period of time it becomes difficult to determine the true criticality of any valve.

KWR principal scientist Dr Mirjam Blokker explains that “OptiValves is a tool that will allow you to look at valves in a distribution system. In building networks, valves are put in more or less randomly — but some are more important than others and utilities would like to focus on these.” OptiValves helps utilities to verify which valves are critical to their network, enabling an optimal valve maintenance programma over the life cycle of a drinkmg water distribution network that includes an improved inspection procedure for each valve and a maintenance programme targeted at the most important valves in the network. Blokker says: “It seems some water companies don’t realise their valves can fail. The focus is on the network failing. Valves are closed so that only people in a particular section will be without water, presuming that valves will do what they should do, but in older networks this is not always the case.”

“Should one valve fail to close, a larger section of network will almost certainly have to be closed off to isolate the problem,” says Blokker. Statistically, in any set of valves there is a 10% chance that any one valve will not function and in reality this creates a significant risk that a failure will occur. “The Dutch water companies realised this and built OptiValves,” she explains. “Understanding which valves are important is key to developing a good maintenance programma,” she adds. The tool encompasses a complex service whose functionality can be expanded or modified to create a tailored solution that includes consultancy if needed. As an example of its use, KWR helped one office The Netherlands’ major water companies, Evides, to improve its valve inspection procedures and has also used the tool with a number of other utilities.

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Source: Water21 August 2014 (16.4) pp31-32 © IWA Publishing