In this news article, we report on insights generated during the 17th Annual Rural Water Services Conference, including an overview and a summary of talks delivered by the various speakers including the Dŵr Uisce team. We summarise some key take-home lessons from the Dŵr Uisce perspective, especially on how to improve innovation through inter-sectoral collaboration with rural communities in Ireland.
Ana de Almeida Kumlien and Irene Fernandez (Dŵr Uisce team) attended and presented at the 17th Annual Rural Water Services Conference Assessing Risks in Rural Water from Catchment to Consumer. The conference was a partnership between the National Federation of Group Water Schemes (NFGWS) and the Local Authority Services National Training Group. A total of 13 talks were delivered by water and energy stakeholders from all over Ireland. Over 300 delegates represented, community members and leaders, managers and practitioners of Group Water Schemes (GWS), Irish government and HEIs. Drinking water and community authorities from Scotland were also present. The event provided an opportunity for the Dŵr Uisce team to inform and to learn from practitioners and communities, addressing some of the challenges and opportunities for innovation in the water and energy nexus.
Dŵr Uisce talks:
The Dŵr Uisce team delivered two talks:
Talk 1- Helping the water sector to innovate
Ana de Almeida Kumlien delivered an evidence-based and insightful talk briefing the delegates about the Dŵr Uisce project. During the talk, Ana explored the role of the Dŵr Uisce water and energy network (smart specialisation cluster) and how collaboration between practitioners and researchers is a key-factor in making innovation a reality. Ana discussed particularly how the role played by the NFGWS, as a supportive partner of Dŵr Uisce water and energy network, has been essential to advancing engineering milestones of the project, particularly regarding the design and installation of the micro-hydropower demonstration site in Blackstairs. The talk acknowledged the importance of the Group Water Schemes’ (GWSs) community commitment to the provision of safe and secure water supplies. For example, members of the schemes work on a voluntary basis and this community has a strong sense of ownership for their catchment areas and water treatment infrastructure. The Dŵr Uisce project is strengthened by their desire and openness to innovate, as an example for other rural communities in Ireland and beyond. Ana finished by inviting the GWS community to visit the Blackstairs’ demonstration site in mid-2019 where they will have the opportunity to learn and to apply the lessons learned in their own schemes.
In brief, Blackstairs is a pilot demonstrator for a new low-carbon smart technology which is expected to deliver up to 25% reduction in energy costs for water treatment through application of micro-hydropower energy recovery. The application will bring benefits to local consumers, the GWS itself and the DBO operator EPS. Some of the questions which emerged after the talk were: how could other schemes finance similar installations in their context and whether the demonstration site would continue to be open after the end of the project. Comments and feedback from the talk will be incorporated into publications from the project, social media material, and other communication channels.
Talk 2-Recovering Energy from Water Production
The second presentation, focused on more in-depth technical aspects of the Dŵr Uisce project and it was given by Irene Fernandez. Irene’s talk focused on the hydropower potential in Group Water Schemes (GWSs) as a means to recover energy and reduce leakages in the network. Irene presented an specific analysis carried out in eight GWSs. It included evaluating the possibility of replacing existing Pressure Reducing Valves (PRVs) or Break Pressure Tanks (BPTs) with a turbine, and more specifically, a Pump-as-turbine (PAT). Based upon her analysis, the installation of PATs at specific potential sites may deliver both new energy generation and also water savings through the reduction of leakages in the networks. Finally, Irene described the two demonstration sites in which a pilot PAT is going to be installed soon: one in Blackstairs GWS (Co. Wexford) and another one in Ty Mawr Wybrnant (Wales). The presentation generated questions, particularly around costs to install the PAT and return of investment over the years of operation.
Conclusion and the future for Dŵr Uisce and the Group Water Schemes in Ireland:
The NFGWS delivered a top-notch event and gathers and nurtures a world-class community of water practitioners. The world can learn from rural Ireland. The Dŵr Uisce team will pass the good messages we saw yesterday ahead. As for the future, the Dŵr Uisce team, especially with Work Package 8, is starting to work on the Commercialisation Plans for the spin out venture, and how we are looking forward to explore how this could be a way to continue the long-term collaboration with the NFGWS.