Taking no risks in preparing drinking water

Joke Cuperus - Director of PWN

PWN supplies soft drinking water to more than 780,000 households, companies and institutions in the province of North Holland. For the preparation of drinking water, we use surface water from the IJsselmeer and the Lek. Because the North Holland dune area plays a major role in our drinking water preparation, it is logical that PWN also takes on the task of nature management. In that role, we were involved in drawing up the Kustpact (Coastal Pact). With this pact, provinces, coastal municipalities, nature conservation organisations and the recreational sector reach agreements about the future of the Dutch coast. During the meetings, it struck me that participants talked in the first instance about flood protection and environmental development. People did not immediately think about clean dune water as a source for drinking water preparation. Because clean drinking water is taken for granted to such an extent, its production is not always afforded the attention it deserves.

The safest product I know

Drinking water is a basic necessity of life and PWN does not want to take any risks with it. These days, in the drinking water that we use, we see increasing amounts of medicines and other drugs, and there are still traces of agricultural toxins and fertilizers. Several purification steps remove these substances. In this work, water laboratories play an important role. We take water samples day in, day out. I don’t know any other product that is so carefully checked during production. As a result, our drinking water can easily bear comparison with bottled water. As a drinking water company, in addition to a safe production process, we take great care with the security of supply. PWN has some 10,000 kilometres of water pipes, which are for a large part invisible under pastureland and roads, and which are crucial for our operational management. We monitor the pipes very carefully so as to detect leaks quickly.

As a legal expert, I like standards and rules, but these must not create a suffocating straitjacket. However, this is not how I feel about the NEN standards – on the contrary! Working with NEN standards is never under discussion and I find that remarkable. It is also a good thing that users, suppliers and knowledge institutions enter into discussions to draw up or tighten standards. Everyone is listened to. One of our managers is chair of a NEN committee that is concerned with legionella in drinking water. There was a discussion about whether the high temperature that is needed to counter legionella formation, but that is also very energy-intensive, is always necessary everywhere. In the course of their discussions, the participants came to the conclusion that there are other ways. Modern insights and techniques make it possible, and this has led to new agreements being made.

Getting a grip on the spaghetti below ground

In various administrative agreements, we cooperate with water boards and municipalities to tackle the task of water provision on all fronts. Overflowing storm drains are well-known, but loose pipes and a rising temperature in the water pipes are also consequences of climate change. It is important for all pipeline operators to get to grips with the underground pipe spaghetti. Once there is a clear picture of the system of water pipes, maintenance and replacement work can be well-coordinated, which minimizes disturbance. I am proud of the fact that PWN is the first drinking water company that has been certified for asset management. This means that we have a good picture of our total physical drinking water infrastructure, from our sources to the customer’s water meter. It was a huge task that we worked on for five years. In this way, we show our customers that we are a reliable drinking water supplier and that we set great store by security of supply and public health.

View here the projects and standardization initiatives related to water.