Managing Director, WVL
What is the water supply like in south-east Styria? What are the challenges in everyday life? And what happens in the event of a blackout? We wanted to know this and much more from Franz Glanz, the managing director of the "Wasserversorgung Vulkanland" (WVL) water association, and asked him.
How many people does the WVL water association supply?
The WVL is the largest water association in Styria in terms of area. We supply water to 12 percent of the entire area of Styria. Approximately 100,000 inhabitants live in our supply area. However, we are a long-distance supplier. This means that our partners are the municipalities. We supply them with drinking water and the municipalities distribute it themselves in their own areas.
What are the biggest challenges in your day-to-day activities?
Our communities are our customers and our job is to provide them with drinking water of sufficient quality and quantity. Ensuring this quality and quantity is a constant challenge and we try to accomplish this to the best of our abilities. Another challenge is to keep the plant up and running. Our association is now over 40 years old. The networks and the technical equipment are also of a corresponding age. Therefore, this task will also remain with us in the future.
Where does "your water" come from?
Our water association actually exists because south-east Styria is a water shortage area. Compared to the rest of Austria, we have the least precipitation, so local resources are not sufficient to ensure a large-scale water supply. This is why we operate a 300 km long transport pipeline network (without municipalities) from the Lower Mur Valley.
On top of that, we have about 10 extraction points, which are the groundwater deposits, and numerous elevated tanks for storing the water. We also have about 40-50 pumping stations and several 100 shaft structures, which are the so-called transfer points to the municipalities.
What are the biggest changes compared to the past?
We are feeling the effects of climate change on a massive scale. By this I mean heat and drought, which used to occur once every 10 years. Today, drought affects us roughly every 2 years. Rainfall distribution has also been turned upside down. This has led to a high density of mains connections as many domestic wells have dried up. All the time, this connection density is increasing and there is no end in sight, so we are continuing to expand.
We are also noticing a change with regard to water backup in emergencies. To counteract this, we have built an extensive water network over the past 20 years, where all water suppliers assist each other. And one last point: the legal regulations regarding the requirements placed on drinking water have also changed. Every plant must comply at all times with the Water Rights Act and be state of the art.
How would the water supply be affected in the event of a blackout?
We have a chairman who is very active in this area, so we are well prepared. In the meantime, we have reached the point where we can supply our entire supply area for 5-6 days in the event of a blackout with an average daily quantity calculated on the basis of annual demand. We have installed about 25 emergency power supply systems at our major wells, reservoirs and pumping stations. We have even built our own diesel filling station in the association, with a capacity of 20,000 litres. This is because it would be very difficult to get diesel in the event of a blackout.
You mentioned that it is challenging to ensure water quality. How do you manage that?
We monitor the catchment area very closely so that we can detect any relevant changes in good time. For this purpose, we have installed a comprehensive monitoring system that can identify these changes.
What about water losses in your water network?
At around 4-5 percent, our water losses are within a range that is satisfactory for a transport system. For a local supply, water losses are somewhat higher. We monitor and control our system with a GPS radio and have appropriate equipment to detect extraordinary water losses immediately. This allows us to respond instantly if necessary.
Are illegal water losses an issue for you?
Illegal water losses are not an issue for us as people do not have direct access to the transport system. The problem tends to affect local supplies more.
How exactly do you find leaks?
A mini-leak is almost impossible to find. For us, the flow rate is an important indicator. If there is a noticeable change in consumption, we are alerted and the on-call service can respond immediately. As a support for our members (communities) we have installed a system that can measure night-time consumption. Any deviations from the volume that has been set will trigger an alarm.
What has been your greatest success in recent years?
I would say it has to be the networking project and the cooperation with our neighbouring water suppliers. That really was a special achievement for us. Since we played a leading role here, I see this as a special feat.
Why do you rely on Hawle products?
Hawle is a particularly reliable partner and many municipalities trust in Hawle quality. Another great advantage for us is the support provided by the field sales representative, who is always available to answer any technical questions.
Thank you very much Mr. Glanz for your time and this very Interesting interview!