The Manila Water Company (MWC) has successfully deployed smart technology for strengthening the water and sewerage network in East Manila. The East Zone of Manila used to suffer from several water problems such as leakages, meter tampering, illegal connections, and poor access to 24×7 supply. By making use of technological advancements such as geographic information systems (GIS), the My Manila Water app and i20 Water’s advanced pressure system, the company has improved the operations of the existing assets. It has also enabled consumers to avoid physical contact for bill payments and complaint redressal during the pandemic.
The MWC provides water and used water services to over 6 million people across 23 cities and municipalities in the East Zone of Metro Manila and in Rizal province. With the enactment of the National Water Crisis Act by the Philippines government, the state-run Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) turned over the operation of water utilities in the East Zone Concession to the Ayala-led MWC. The MWC now covers nearly 40 per cent of the capital city. It provides over 1,180 million litres per day (mld) of water, caters to over 900,000 water services and maintains a network of 4,650 km of pipelines.
GIS and network modelling
The MWC has deployed some interesting technological solutions, which have helped it rehabilitate the existing water supply system and improve service delivery. Three key technological initiatives have been taken by the company. To begin with, an enterprise GIS was developed to cater to the geographic needs. All the water meters in the city were then mapped and information about the service pipes was captured digitally. Lastly, a single topographic map was developed to align all existing assets. With GIS in place, the company was able to achieve greater efficiency in operating, managing and renewing its assets by gathering, collating and analysing accurate real-time information.
Online bill payment
In October 2020, the MWC launched the My Manila Water app, which will enable customers to track their outstanding balance, check their current bills and pay them online. This will also help customers minimise physical contact and exposure to Covid-19. Moreover, customers can file complaints, requests and queries through this app. The utility is also planning to release a downloadable version of the app with additional features. It will be expanded to include service advisories, interruptions, news, updates and traffic advisories. Further, it will help track the ongoing activities being undertaken by the company, such as laying of pipes, emergency repairs and maintenance work.
Reduction of NRW
The MWC has been very successful in reducing water losses in distribution. It has implemented a comprehensive non-revenue water (NRW) programme and undertaken several NRW reduction activities, including leak detection, pipe replacement, meter inspection and calibration. The GIS has been integrated with the district metered area management to monitor NRW and pressure levels. This has not only contributed to network efficiency, but has also provided additional water supply. Further, the MWC has undertaken several measures to close the demand-supply gap. It has increased production at its Cardona water treatment plant in Rizal, rehabilitated existing deep wells, and constructed new wells across the east zone. It has efficiently reduced its system losses and managed to bring down NRW to almost 7.5 per cent in June 2019. This has translated into almost 70 mld of water, which has helped the company meet its water deficit.
Recognising the need for modern infrastructure facilities and improved service delivery mechanisms, the MWC turned to advanced technological solutions and processes for water supply management. The company has installed i20 Water’s advanced pressure management solution, which uses a pump control system to reduce instances of leakages by moderating unwanted pressure. It thus helps in lowering system loss levels. The MWC was the first utility in Asia to use pressure management solutions to optimise the management of its water network. It is equipped with algorithm-generated pump operation schemes that enable exact pressure distribution and ensure that the water pressure does not drop beyond a certain minimum level, even at critical points in the distribution network. Further, the company has deployed supervisory control and data acquisition technology to improve its key competencies and current operations.
In October 2020, SUEZ signed a new contract with the MWC for designing and building a wastewater treatment plant in Metro Manila. The plant is being set up in an effort to reach 100 per cent sewer coverage by 2037. It will service the three cities of Mandaluyong, San Juan and Quezon in the capital region of Metro Manila. SUEZ has been appointed to design, construct and manage one year of operations and maintenance of the Aglipay Sewage treatment plant (STP) in Mandaluyong. Construction is under way and is expected to be completed in early 2024. The plant is designed to have a daily capacity of 60,000 cubic metres. In order to cut its operating costs and installation space, SUEZ will use its MeteorTM Moving Bed Biofilm Reactor (MMBR) and GreendafTM technologies. This MMBR plant is expected to be the biggest of its kind in the Philippines.
The MWC also offers Integrated Used water services (IUS), which aim to provide wastewater management solutions to the fragmented market, where vendors only provide short-term solutions. IUS is an end-to-end management process that goes all the way to regulatory compliance management. The MWC has mapped the market by wastewater concentration and volume and has determined four wastewater solutions: design, build and operate; plug-and-play STPs; pre-treatment for sewered customers; and offsite treatment. The IUS programme is at different stages of development. Some of the IUS projects that have been successfully piloted are a 10 mld STP for Ayala Land’s Cebu IT Park; a plug-and-play STP pilot-to-purchase agreement with a major quick-service restaurant company; and a pre-treatment pilot project for a fast food giant.
The initiatives undertaken by the MWC will facilitate the use of advanced management techniques to sustain optimum performance of its assets at lower costs. The company is continuously working on expanding its water and used water service coverage. It is aiming for higher production, lower pumping and treatment costs and greater sanitation and sewerage coverage. To achieve its targets, it continuously implements innovative practices and adopts new technologies to bring down costs and enhance operational efficiency. The MWC also focuses strongly on sustainable and environmental upgrading techniques.