“If you want to change/improve water loss control in any utility, you need 3 persons willing to learn and do; technician responsible for field work, manager who will define strategy and monitor/manage progress and general manger of the water utility who will support the whole thing, no matter the size of the company”
The special guest of Water Loss Detectives workshop is Mr Jurica Kovac. To know him better we addressed him a few questions:
Hello Jurica! I am glad that you agreed to come to Romania and to share some of your experiences with us. We have some questions for you in order to know you better and those who will participate in workshop:
- A few words about you :
First of all, thank you for inviting me for your workshop. I am monitoring development in Romania for many years, and your path could be in inspiring for many parts of the world. As always, progress lays in hands of visionary individuals, and in Romania you have couple of them, what is a great fortune.
My path in water loss adventure was interesting one, to say the least. I was born in Osijek (1974), mid size town (100000 inhabitants) in eastern part of Croatia, close to the border with Serbia. My choice for education was electro-engineering but my first work (back in 1992), due to chance (or fate, who knows), was in local water utility, with responsibility for maintenance and control of main pumping stations (18 deep wells). I was in the utility for 5 years, with great opportunity to learn up close different aspects of water distribution system and gaining skills in various fields, including pipes and fittings installation, first SCADA systems, and most importantly how it looks like working in the public utility (behaviours, organisation, communication etc.). In 1997 I have decided to quit utility and with ambition to try something new, started as a technician in a private company who’s intention was to offer new kind of service on the market – water loss detection. For the next 13 years I was building my skills and knowledge in water loss management (mostly learning by myself, doing everything, from leak detection, measurements, pressure control, remote monitoring). Another level in development was open when I met in 2005 my today’s friend and colleague Mr. Marco Fantozzi from Italy, and soon after Mr. Allan Lambert from UK. Then my ride was set for high gear 🙂 . In 2010 I have decided for the next change, and left this private company to start my own consultancy business. Now, as an independent consultant, I am mostly involved in education of employees in water utilities, but also of people in private companies, and in national regulators (all with aim to upgrade knowledge and skills in water loss management) in Croatia, but also in the whole region of Western Balkan.
- What do you do now? How long have you work in the field of water losses? Could you tell us something about your professional experience? How did you get in touch with this subject? Who taught you this?
Above answers these questions.
- What mentors did you have and what useful tips have you received? What books do you recommend?
As I mentioned before, two people had biggest influence (being almost like mentors, for sure), Mr. Fantozzi and Mr. Lambert. One tip, that I always use, was given me by
Mr. Lambert: “If you want to change/improve water loss control in any utility, you need 3 persons willing to learn and do; technician responsible for field work, manager who will define strategy and monitor/manage progress and general manger of the water utility who will support the whole thing, no matter the size of the company”.
Regarding books for recommendation, besides of course technical materials and manuals, I would like to draw your attention to some side subjects (very important in my personal development) and here is my pick of first 3 to start with; first, Tony Buzan, Mind Map (learn how to think), second, Scott Adams, How to Fail at Almost Everything, and Still Win Big (learn what to think) and third, Robert Greene, Mastery (learn from the best).
- Could you tell us something about some of the most interesting projects that you participated in? What conditions did you encounter?
After 20 years of experience in water loss activities this question is interesting, but for the sake of the length of this interview I will draw two short examples from the beginning of my career (early 2000s). First case, is my encounter with one rather small system, some 300 km of network, rural area with small villages and one small town. They started at the end of 90’s with very simple philosophy, every village (or part of the town) must have own water meter at the inlet junction/chamber, with goal to install mechanical woltmann meters (to be as cheap as possible). Today we would call them DMAs. In couple of years they covered whole system with some 50 measuring locations, and meters were read every two weeks and compared with monthly reading of consumers water meters. Where NRW was high, they conducted simple walking to look for leaks visible on the surface. With this simple approach they already achieved general NRW close to 30%. When I came, all I had to do was to upgrade it with telemetry system (GSM data loggers), and supply them with ground microphone, and in two years we had NRW below 20% (ILI around 1,5). Second case deals with another small town with high NRW and large number of bursts, where they already secured large loan investment to replace most affected parts of the network (estimated value of 1 M Euro). My approach involved pressure measurements and it shoved overall pressure above 5 bars and during the night above 7 bars (with present pressure transients). Recommendation was to build new chamber and to install PRV at the main entrance into the system with reduction of pressure up to 5 bars. Since then, no one ever mentioned that network needs to be renovated with huge investment (number of new burst was reduced by 80%). Whole investment in new chamber and PRV had costs of approx. 30 K Euro.
- Have you ever been in Romania? If yes, on what occasion?
I was couple of times in Romania, first time back in 2007 when we had IWA World Water Loss conference in Bucharest (symbolically this was my first IWA conference). Last official visit was in 2015 when you had regional IWA water loss conference.
Also, as some of you know, I am assisting in preparations of the newsletter Water Loss Detectives. I find this newsletter (and accompanying Facebook page), with the whole team (with Alin Anchidin leading them) as one of rare world examples what few people and great enthusiasm can achieve.
- Are you familiar with the Balkan problems related to water loss? What do you think is the key difference between those with high losses (Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria) and those with low losses (Germany, Netherlands,Japan)? What method/ strategy produces results ?
Since I am traveling around for years now, problems in the region are known to me. First of all I would like to emphasise one simple fact, we have great and competent people here, many do not lack knowledge and motivation compared with colleagues in the West (and all of them are very fast learners). Difference is in evident in two aspects; first, our utilities lack good organisation and working discipline, partly due to strong influence of local politics, and second, financial strength is insufficient considering needs. Just one small example, in the West they really have something called rehabilitation of networks (for example 1-2% of the pipe network is renovated yearly), what is rarely seen in our region.
- In the past, leakages were discovered by direct listening to the pipes, and now there are technologies that can “discover” these leakages using the drones and the satellites. What do you think is the direction for the future? Will we be able to accurately locate leakages solely using computer software?
And do not forget, some of them even use dogs! Development of technology is fast and it is hard to forecast near future, so I am sure for years to come, losses control will be based on skills and knowledge of us, humans. In transition period satellites and drones will become more and more accurate, but on the long run (few decades) we can expect that leak detection will become very simple with use of new materials (self healing pipes) and nanotechnology as integral part of pipes and fittings (leak detection and communication via IoT world). So, final conclusion is yes, in the future computers will do everything (and who knows maybe we will have robots to do excavation and repair work).
- What interesting things were discussed at the Water Loss Conference 2018? What are the trends and approaches?
Last world conference in Cape Town was very interesting, and in general we are still on the same path considering existing approaches and technologies. What is important challenge to overcome is to spread the word in all parts of the world, that people gain needed know-how and motivation.
- What do you think about Water Loss Detectives magazine? What advices can you give us ?
As I mentioned above, I admire your work and spirit. I am aware that there is no financial gains in creating magazine, and only love for what you are doing gives you strength to continue. My small contribution and assistance will remain, and I wish you to keep on! Who knows, maybe one day your magazine will become world reference.
See you in Bucharest.