A well-functioning sewer is vitally important, but as a small municipality, how do you ensure that the management does not cost unnecessary effort and money? Research groups Asset Management and Data Science of the HZ , the SAZ+ partnership (comprising Waterschap Scheldestromen, Evides Waterbedrijf and the thirteen Zeeland municipalities) have created a system to make sewer management simpler, more efficient and effective for small municipalities.

In the Netherlands, there are some one hundred thousand kilometres of sewers with a total replacement value of around sixty billion euros. A substantial part is at the end of its lifespan. Municipalities and the water board are responsible for management. So far, most sewer managers work on the basis of knowledge and expertise in their field. Every year, a different part of the systems in the thirteen Zeeland municipalities is due for maintenance. A large municipality like Rotterdam has been working in a risk-based way for years. This assumes that you can always count on the sewer and that maintenance is only carried out when it is really necessary. This saves unnecessary work and costs. Such a risk-driven way of working is difficult for small municipalities, where often one or two people are responsible for sewer management. They cannot focus solely on sewer management because they are also responsible for other tasks of the municipality.

Framework and toolbox

A survey of sewerage managers in Zeeland a few years ago showed that they too want to start risk-based management as soon as possible. With Riobase, that has come a step closer. Together, the partners in the project have created a framework and a toolbox with instruments and techniques that enable smaller municipalities to manage their sewer systems on the basis of risk and data as well.

Working unambiguously

Researchers from the HZ lectureships Asset Management and Data Science created this system. They initially started discussions with managers from the municipalities of Reimerswaal and Veere. That led to a first version of the system. Then they tested the first version of the system in Sluis and Vlissingen and made minor improvements. This version can be rolled out to other municipalities. "We can now make considerations about our sewer management unambiguously and based on objective information," says sewer manager Ferry Kramer of the municipality of Vlissingen. "In time, we can work in an unambiguous way. We will then benefit from that." His Reimerswaal colleague Jacob Jan Sinke says it will also save the municipalities money. "Because of Riobase, if I have ten pipes, I know what the consequences are if I tackle one and not nine others. I therefore expect us to embed this system."

The Riobase project is an example of this and partly made possible by a RAAK grant from Regieorgaan SIA.

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