A reliable and safe central water supply is an important pillar of every society. The social distancing measures in spring 2020 posed new challenges for water utilities (e.g.: notable spatial and temporal change in water demand in the distribution network, extremely spring drought, conversion to emergency operation, personnel management and quarantine). In this context, small and medium-sized water utilities (approx. 41% of the population is supplied with drinking water by small structures) in particular lacked the resources, the necessary knowledge and personnel for efficient emergency management.
In order to make efficient crisis and pandemic management possible for small and medium-sized water utilities as well, a survey of the experiences and measures taken in spring 2020 among Austrian water utilities (especially larger water utilities in urban structures have developed efficient crisis procedures) will be conducted in the first phase of the project. The results will be used for the preparation of best practice guidance, adapted to all water utility sizes, and the revision of existing guidelines (e.g.: W74 - Emergency supply of drinking water).
The advancing digitalisation in the field of urban water management (e.g.: digital water meters, pressure and quality sensors) enables continuous monitoring of system conditions, thereby enabling the development of innovative approaches for future pandemic and crisis management. However, integrative resilience considerations (digitalisation as a crisis tool but also additional risk potential through multiple access points) have not found their way into the practice nor into literature. Therefore, in the second project phase, the risk, vulnerability and resilience of the existing infrastructure in Austria (especially small and medium-sized water utilities) to digital incidents will be investigated on a system basis and the opportunities for efficient crisis management through digitalisation will be determined. In addition to classic crisis scenarios (e.g. contamination, cyber-physical attacks), newly defined incidents in the course of the pandemic, such as (1) social distancing - changes in consumption, (2) pathogens transmissible via drinking water, (3) uncoordinated withdrawal of drinking water for storage purposes (similar to hoarding purchases of toilet paper) and (4) loss of knowledge due to personnel changes (quarantine, generation change), are systematically examined for incidence management and resilience and possible solutions are developed. Essential here is also the consideration of cross-incident scenarios, e.g.: social distancing and cyber-physical attack. Based on this, innovative technical, socio-technical and digital approaches for incident management to increase resilience will then be developed, their functionality verified, and their suitability tested in selected case studies.
The best-practice applications from project phase 1 will then be used as a template to prepare the results from project phase 2 for the operators of water utilities as manuals or guides for a wide range of crisis scenarios.
Univ.-Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr. techn. Robert Sitzenfrei, Faculty of Civil Engineering, Unit of Environmental Engineering, University of Innsbruck
Project and cooperation partners
- Österreichische Vereinigung für das Gas- und Wasserfach (ÖVGW) (email@example.com)
- Stadtwerke Schwaz GmbH (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Universität Innsbruck - Institut für Öffentliches Recht, Staats- und Verwaltungslehre (Oeffentl-Recht@uibk.ac.at)
- Universität Innsbruck Institut für Soziologie (email@example.com)
- Wasser Tirol - Dienstleistungs-GmbH (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- ZetaLabs IT-Service (email@example.com)
Univ.-Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr. techn. Robert Sitzenfrei
Technikerstr. 13, 6020 Innsbruck
Tel. +43 512 507 62195
Fax. +43 512 507 62199
Project Website: https://www.uibk.ac.at/umwelttechnik/research/projects/resist.html.en