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Aigües de Barcelona: three basic principles that underlie the management of the Barcelona water supply

Aigües de Barcelona: three basic principles that underlie the management of the Barcelona water supply

On World Water Day we would like to give you an insight into Aigües de Barcelona, a water company that engages in innovation in order to ensure the sustainable development of Barcelona

Put simply, water is a molecule composed of two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen. But in fact, water, H2O, or whatever you want to call it, is much more than that: water is health, it is hygiene, it is the environment, and it is the future.

Bounded by two rivers and the Mediterranean, Barcelona needs good water management. It needs to provide healthy drinking water and ensure there is a supply of water throughout the territory; and it needs to close the cycle by cleaning and regenerating wastewater. It is Aigües de Barcelona that makes all this possible.

A benchmark in water cycle management

The public-private company has been in existence for more than 150 years and currently provides services to nearly 3 million people in 23 municipalities, playing a key role in the development and progress of the Greater Barcelona metropolitan area. In addition to supply, sewerage, and wastewater treatment, Aigües de Barcelona provides drainage services, remote meter readings, management of non-potable and bathing water, as well as the conservation of ornamental fountains in some of the municipalities.

It also enables municipalities to attract tourists by monitoring the state of the beaches and managing any spillages in real time. This is very important since a comprehensive information system for forecasting the quality of water in bathing areas, both in coastal and inland areas, is what makes it possible to enjoy a really great swim.

Committed to sustainability and to people

A commodity as basic as water must be cared for. Climate change, which is already beginning to make itself felt, and the growing demand for water threaten the sustainability of water resources and directly affect agriculture, industry and urban supply, and consequently, equitable access to this resource. Aware of this problem, Aigües de Barcelona has placed sustainability at the heart of its strategy and is committed to improving hydraulic efficiency and reducing water loss in the network, as well as turning to regeneration and reuse as the best alternatives for guaranteeing the supply of drinking water. Committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the company is caring for water, the city, and the planet.

People are another main priority for the company, which has established several protocols to ensure access to water for the entire population, especially the most vulnerable. During lockdown last year, for example, Aigües de Barcelona put all the necessary measure in place in order to guarantee the normal operation of essential services such as water supply and sanitation, including providing workers with accommodation in the most important facilities.

A culture of innovation

Sustainability must always go hand in hand with research and innovation so that solutions can be found for the challenges facing the environment and cities.

The culture of innovation at Aigües de Barcelona is based on several lines of research that seek to generate social, economic, and environmental value in all its projects. In recent years it has promoted training to encourage the spirit of innovation among its employees and has participated in several open innovation projects. One example of its efforts to promote innovation is the Water Technology Center (CETAQUA), which is the result of collaboration between Aigües de Barcelona, the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya and the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC). Its purpose is to develop the water cycle process in order to meet the current and future needs of the population, a key component of Aigües de Barcelona's research needs.

This project demonstrates that R&D&I involves working both internally and with other bodies. Of the 74 innovation projects carried out in 2017 at Aigües de Barcelona, 27 were in close collaboration with public bodies, universities, research centers, other private companies, and the general public. The company acts both with the city and for the city.

Aigües de Barcelona, for example, developed COVID-19 City Sentinel, an instrument that monitors wastewater and detects and quantifies the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This pioneering solution, the result of the joint effort of numerous research and innovation centers, involves a sampling plan, rapid analyses, and access to a digital observatory. It is crucial for anticipating new scenarios and making decisions that can save lives, and is an example of how science, combined with expert knowledge, is the best way to protect public health.

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