An Integrated Project Funded by the European Commission under the Sustainable Development, Global Change and Ecosystems Thematic Priority Area.
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Contract Number: 018320
Project Cordinator: Dr. Theo van den Hoven KIWA Water Research
Project Duration: 1st January 2006 to 31st December 2010

Technology for safe drinking water in Central and Eastern Europe - Forth TECHNEAU Regional Technology Platform

- The forth Regional Technology Platform enabled an intensive insight in the drinking water supply situation in Central and Eastern Europe and facilitated a lively information exchange as well as ideas for stronger cooperation between regional stakeholders and the TECHNEAU team -

 

The forth RTP took place in Tábor, Czech Republic, from  June 5 - 6, 2008 and was hosted by the Czech National Institute of Public Health and SOVAK CR, the Water Supply and Sewerage Association of the Czech Republic.

The workshop which was linked to the "Pitna Voda" conference, a regional biennial symposium of Czech and Slovak drinking water experts, and focussed on "Technology for Safe Drinking Water in Central and Eastern Europe". The workshop programme included presentations from a wide range of national and international water experts and highlighted specific aspects of the regional drinking water situation and relevant research results from TECHNEAU.

Water supply in Central and Eastern European countries relies upon both groundwater and surface water mostly in equal shares. In dry years, the water situation is characterised by water scarcity and due to still prevalent pollution the water quality is generally still an issue. E.g. the raw water quality from dams in Bulgaria is often impaired from sewage due to insufficiently established protection zones. Nitrate and pesticides endanger groundwater bodies. Water quality improvement and pollution control remain key issues for future water management.

Since the early 1990s, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe< are undergoing substantial political, economic and institutional changes in the context of the transition from centrally planned to market economies. These changes like decentralisation of state administration, introduction of new legislation, privatisation of state-owned enterprises, are heavily influencing the drinking water sector of these countries.

Another severe challenge for the drinking water supply in the region arises from deficiencies in operation and maintenance of the systems. Physical and commercial water losses are continuing to cause problems regarding operation and financing, i.e.:

  • physical (real) losses: leakage from the system and overflows at the utility's storage tanks
  • commercial (apparent) losses: consumer metre under-registration, data handling errors and thefts
  •  unbilled authorized consumption water used by the utility for operational purposes and fire fighting.

The total costs caused by non-revenue water are enormous and water losses e.g. in urban water networks can amount to 27-50% of the total water supply. The regional water experts are searching for a solution of this problem. Employing the example of Bucharest, a set of measures was highlighted such as water loss reduction by pressure management, active leakage control, improvement of the speed and the quality of repairs, the introduction of district metered areas, and the improvement of management practices on different levels.

Furthermore increasing costs due to high investments on the one hand and population decrease, e.g. in Bulgaria from 9 million in 1986 down to 7.7 million in 2006, on the other hand characterize the situation of water supply companies leading to a significant decrease of water consumption, sometimes only 40% of the designed capacity. Especially in the new member states such as Bulgaria, worn equipment and outdated treatment technologies are still a major burden for an efficient production and supply of high quality of water. Water availability varies largely between the CEE countries ranging from above 22000 m³/cap/year in Bulgaria to 2000 m³/cap/year in the Czech Republic. In addition to high water losses, water scarcity due to summer droughts also poses risks to public water supply.

With the increase of privatization of the water sector during the last decade in some countries, especially in major urban areas, such as Prague and Bucharest, an orientation towards consumer issues was observed. The large majority of consumer perceives the service of the water companies and the quality of water supplied as good. Less than 1% regarded the water quality as being not suitable for consumption. Information is provided via internet and call centres and regular consumer surveys are conducted.

Using the example of the water quality monitoring in the Czech Republic, it was illustrated that the water quality complies in 99.7 % with the standards of the drinking water directive showing that despite the above mentioned problems and challenges the quality of water is already relatively good. Employing the water safety plan approach the first risk study in the Czech Republic was conducted for a small town as a part of the TECHNEAU project. The case of Březnice proved the helpfulness of the risk assessment / risk management method identifying microbial and chemical contaminations of the groundwater sources as major hazards. The final report on the risk study was published in April 2008 and can be downloaded from the Techneau website.

The conference provided an intensive insight in the special problems and challenges of the drinking water sector in Central and Eastern Europe. It enabled the identification of important regional multipliers, key stakeholders and scientists in the region facilitating the transfer of TECHNEAU knowledge to the still little English speaking water community in the CEE countries. It was agreed to intensify the cooperation between the regional water experts outside the project and the TECHNEAU team, and to promote future common research in upcoming topics.