The 6 steps of the urban water cycle

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In order to achieve a sustainable and efficient water management, it is necessary to have a thorough knowledge of all the processes involved in the urban water cycle.

This cycle is responsible for enabling us to carry out daily (and apparently) simple actions, such as filling a glass of water in our kitchen, which hide in fact complex relationships and interconnections.

The urban water cycle is the general process that covers supply and sanitation services. It begins with the tasks required to obtain water and ends with the correct discharge of water to nature. Its 6 stages are some of the most relevant processes in our day-to-day life.

1. Source

The first step is to obtain from nature the volume of water required to meet the needs generated by human consumption and anthropogenic activities that require water to be carried out (industrial, commercial, tourism, etc.). This can be done in different ways: a) from surface water, such as reservoirs, intakes from water courses, etc.; b) or from groundwater, such as wells connected to aquifers.

In some cases, water catchment can be the result of reuse processes, in which the water obtained will generally be used for purposes other than human consumption, such as watering green areas or cleaning streets. Recently, due to growing water scarcity in certain parts of the planet, extensive research is being carried out to achieve that tertiary water can become suitable for human consumption.

2. Water treatment

Raw water must be treated to make it suitable for human consumption. This is the purpose of Drinking Water Treatment Plants (DWTP), which have different combinations of technologies: coagulation, sedimentation, filtration, chlorination… but all of them pursue the same objective with which the first plants were born in Scotland in the 19th century, and which, after their success, spread to the rest of the world.

New technologies are currently being developed to improve drinking water treatment processes carried out in these DWTPs.

Water filtration pond

3. Water storage

Once that water has been made drinkable, it is transported to urban tanks connected to the supply network. Its objective is to ensure a continuous supply of drinking water under controlled parameters and to secure the availability of water in the future by taking advantage of those moments when there is a surplus that exceeds current needs.

For this purpose, tanks are placed at different strategic points, from which supply is made, either by means of pumping installations or gravity, when they are located at high points in the field.

4. Water distribution

Drinking water distribution is divided into high and low networks. The high network is responsible for the abduction and distribution of water from treatment plants, taking water to cities through a network of large diameter pipes (800-1600 mm) and then creating a distribution network that ends at each point of supply via medium diameter pipes (450-800 mm).

Once that water reaches the supply points, the low network is responsible for distributing water to homes through pipes of smaller diameter.

5. Collection

After water has been used, it is necessary to collect the water that has been discarded. The sewage network consists of pipes and conduits in charge of collecting and transporting the surplus water and wastewater from homes to treatment plants. Its design has to take into account many variables, such as the diameters of the sections (which must be capable of accommodating new urban developments) or the orography of the field, in order to estimate the normal speed in each section or the behaviour of the network in the event of heavy rain.

New technologies are currently offering innovative sensorization and modelling techniques for this type of network, whose information is valuable for decision-making in the facilities in the next stage of the water cycle.

6. Water treatment

Wastewater which is collected by the sewage network reaches Wastewater Treatment Plants (WWTP). It then begins a complex treatment process in order to obtain water that can be returned to nature. Water goes through a complex process divided into different phases and based on physical-chemical and biological techniques (roughing, degreasing, decanting, activated sludge, biological reactor, biodiscs, microfiltration, etc.) in order to eliminate and/or reduce contaminants that are potentially dangerous to nature. Thus, thanks to these facilities we are able to reuse water and to return it to the environment with the least possible impact.

The progress of technology allows to boost the optimization of these processes, which assure us a greater quality and availability of our most precious resource.

Services and solutions for the urban water cycle

There are different stages that ensure the success of the entire water cycle. Its management involves complex processes that require expert management.

The company’s services and technological solutions are focused on providing the necessary tools to ensure the control of the urban water cycle. In this way, organizations can comply with the highest levels of efficiency, transparency and sustainability. These processes can be monitored and controlled from GoAigua’s technological solution, in order to ensure both an integral and integrated management of the cycle.

GoAigua is a pioneer company in the digitalization of the water industry. We accompany water sector organizations in their digital transformation process and provide technological solutions for the commercial cycle, assets and work orders. We digitalize both infrastructures and processes to build a smart decision system in water organizations. From Water Experts to the Water Industry.

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