Keeping The Water Flowing

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Keeping The Water Flowing

Brendan Hegerty, Global Director of Water Solutions at Oxford Flow, takes a closer look at the solutions for effective water

NeoFlow-WETEX-2023

Brendan Hegerty, Global Director of Water Solutions at Oxford Flow, takes a closer look at the solutions for effective water management, and why smart systems could play a key role for the future in solving water loss for life. Oxford Flow and GF Piping Systems entered a strategic partnership in 2020 to bring innovative valve technology to the global water sector.

Keep The Water Flowing

By Brendan Hegerty, Global Director of Water Solutions at Oxford Flow

Non-Revenue Water (NRW) means different things to different people, depending on their area of responsibility or interest. It’s something spoken about often in our industry, not least because of the financial impact associated with NRW, where a percentage of the water produced and delivered to the network is lost before reaching customers, and therefore does not contribute to the revenue of water companies and authorities. 

While this is a global problem, NRW takes on a different complexion in water-stressed regions, such as the Middle East, where methods employed for water production, such as desalination, can often lead to a high cost for producing potable water. 

The resulting financial burden of NRW is therefore even more pronounced, which is why we have seen measures, such as the UAE’s 2036 Water Strategy, set the agenda for creating a more sustainable approach to water access. Ultimately, the reduction of these losses isn’t just about improving efficiencies, but a strategic imperative for sustainable water management long term. 

To maintenance teams, reacting to pipe bursts and leaks, there is an associated cost of time and money alongside a potential impact on proactive and preventative maintenance plans. Whilst for an asset manager, the root cause of NRW poses both operational and financial risks, which will need to be addressed and managed effectively to keep water flowing. It’s a balancing act, certainly, ensuring resilience of water distribution assets and the uninterrupted supply to customers. 

Outside of the water sector, NRW may not register on the same scale, largely because the end consumer is probably not as familiar with this terminology. However, when referred to as ‘water loss’ or leakage, the public perception of water simply being wasted, together with direct issues such as low water pressure or poor water quality, creates significant pain points for water authorities that they want to avoid. 

In this vein, addressing NRW becomes not just an operational and financial challenge but a moral imperative to ensure equitable access to this precious, and increasingly scarce, resource. Fundamentally, pressure management stands as the cornerstone of a proactive strategy for reducing NRW and enhancing customer satisfaction. 

Taking The Pressure Off Water Loss

 

A Pressure Reducing or Regulating Valve (PRV) is a strategic asset in any water network and essential for an effective pressure management strategy. The principal function of a PRV is to regulate pressure in a water distribution or transmission system with the aim of reducing water loss, extending the asset life of piping systems and providing customers with an uninterrupted supply of water.

 
The new NeoFlow range from GF Piping Systems (GF) differs from traditional valves and PRVs in many ways, but predominantly in two areas – the construction material and design geometry. NeoFlow utilizes a robust polymer, which provides significant size and weight reductions over conventional products. 

The NeoFlow design is an axial flow valve featuring patented piston technology which provides exceptional pressure stability, low head loss, and minimal maintenance.

What Makes NeoFlow Technology Exceptional?

  

The foundation for the NeoFlow technology evolved from the University of Oxford in 2015. The original innovation—a pressure regulator—was developed by Professor Thomas Povey at the Oxford Thermofluids Institute to aid his jet engine research.

Increasingly frustrated that market-leading regulators couldn’t provide the precise control he required, he set about designing his own. 

Since then, NeoFlow has continually evolved and improved by learning from thousands of global installations, listening to customer feedback, and probably most interestingly, utilizing the same technology used to design F1 cars!

Our strategic partnership with GF has allowed us to elevate this unique technology even further and take it to the next level, leveraging world-class R&D capabilities in Oxford and global industrial strength and capability within GF. With the new joint venture, GF Corys, also bolstering capabilities and connections within the region, we look forward to expanding our partnership even further.

Withstanding The Middle Eastern Climate

When we first began testing the NeoFlow PRV, The Middle East was one of the locations chosen for its environmental challenges. Over the years we have piloted multiple projects in partnership with the local water authorities, which have all proved successful. 

In fact, a recent milestone was reached when one such PRV exceeded two years with zero maintenance of any kind – a significant achievement in such a challenging environment. Such successes are crucial in encouraging greater adoption of this low-maintenance solution, not least because of the substantial operational benefits for water authorities. 

The presence of a high-performance PRV, such as NeoFlow, is crucial for effective water network management, reducing NRW, and extending the lifespan of piping systems. It serves as a proactive asset management intervention for any organization aiming to enhance its operational resilience.

Welcome To The ‘Digital Water’ Age

   

NRW losses are currently valued around $40 billion per year, which is driving up demand for smart technology solutions. The deployment of these ‘smart water’ technologies represents the future of the water industry, without question. 

As partners, Oxford Flow and GF Corys continue to innovate, advancing the technology to encompass various applications, including a crucial component of any future water network – smart PRVs. 

Navigating the complexities of the ‘digital water age’ is not without its challenges, however we already have these intelligent solutions implemented in the Middle East. This provides the water authority near real time access to critical data and delivers remote and autonomous control of the water network, effectively reducing NRW and minimizing customer complaints.

From a broader perspective, The Middle East is well placed to capitalize on this technological shift, particularly in the UAE, with a vision to become a smart hub and to have every industry underpinned by a digital infrastructure. 

To focus on our sector specifically, we’re finding the water authorities are receptive and forward-thinking to change, and therefore the groundwork is already in place. They in turn, will now need to partner with the right people to help implement and maintain this smart network. 

About The Author: With more than 15 years of dedicated experience in the water industry, Brendan has held strategic roles at a number of water companies, including Thames Water in the UK, where he led in Asset and Operations Management. Over the last five years, Brendan has helped companies to significantly reduce Non-Revenue Water. His focus revolves around implementing proactive intelligent pressure management strategies within water networks to extend the life of critical infrastructure and reduce water loss.

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