Water supply has been in private hands for four years now in Puebla, a city with 1.5 million inhabitants. Thanks to technology from Endress+Hauser, Agua de Puebla is setting a new standard in Mexico.
The view from the 27th floor of the business tower is breathtaking. Far below, a sea of houses spreads out across the city of Heroica Puebla de Zaragoza. On the horizon sits Popocatépetl, a 5,462-meter-high active volcano that looks out over the broad plateau around 100 kilometers south of Mexico City. Agua de Puebla has a first-class headquarters location that sends a clear message: the company has its sights set very high.
Agua de Puebla was awarded a license in 2014 to operate the water system in Puebla. With 1,200 employees, it’s the first company in Mexico to be responsible for the entire water cycle, from collection, distribution, drainage and sewage, to wastewater treatment. It even handles invoicing and maintenance, a genuine challenge in light of the 3,300-kilometer-long distribution network.
Focus on quality
In Mexico, 95 percent of the water supply is in government hands. And the system is in deplorable condition in many parts of the country. “We’re 25 years behind western countries,” says Héctor Durán Díaz, General Director of Agua de Puebla. In Puebla, with its 1.5 million inhabitants, he wants to prove that water is a viable business model and that customers can receive what they want.
When Agua de Puebla took over the water supply in Puebla, there were only two measurement points for the city’s nearly 200 sources. “No one really knew how much water was being collected or consumed,” says the general director. “It was clear to me that the first order of business was to measure, control and automate things.” Today, more than 200 Endress+Hauser instruments reliably supply the measurement values needed to operate the system safely and efficiently. “Because we wanted the best results, we chose the best technology,” says Héctor Durán Díaz.
Measurements are taken nearly everywhere: at the sources, the treatment plants and also at the six filling locations in the city, from which water is distributed by truck. Héctor Durán Díaz travelled to Europe, Israel and the United States where he learned how the local systems work. He then chose the best model for Mexico. He also went to Greenwood, Indiana, where Endress+Hauser produces measurement instruments. “Endress+Hauser has an excellent reputation, but I was still deeply impressed by what I saw.”
A close eye on all values
Flow, pressure and level are normally registered at the 200 sources. The measurement values are transmitted directly to the Agua de Puebla control center and displayed on a huge wall monitor. “We were able to convince the customer with an overall solution,” says Miguel Revilla, Director of Marketing at Endress+Hauser Mexico. The modbus signals from the sources are transmitted over the mobile phone network. “Our partnership with ICH, a local company that supplies technically sophisticated data transmission systems, paid off in this situation.”
The new system has been up and running for a year. Thanks to Heartbeat technology, the measurement instruments are self-monitoring, making the system low-maintenance. Today, technicians are called in only when needed. “Thanks to state-of-the-art process control technology, the city enjoys a reliable water system,” says Héctor Durán Díaz. “The focus now is on using the measurement values to improve efficiency, monitor consumption and minimize waste.”
Energy costs account for 45 percent of expenditure. The pumps in particular draw significant amounts of energy. Engineer Marin Escobar estimates the company has already saved 8 to 12 percent through modern measurement technology. “During the night, or when it rains, we can reduce pump capacity from the control center with the click of a mouse.” Because unusual drops in pressure are immediately registered, leaks are also quickly detected.
“We have established the Puebla water system on a completely new basis,” says Héctor Durán Díaz. It will serve as a model for other cities such as Morelia and Durango. “We will triple our investments in 2018,” says the general director in announcing the company’s intentions. One thing he is convinced of: “Water can be a profitable business if you invest in service, people and the right technology.”