Following the launch of the pilot project, the partners at Stadtentwässerung Dresden (SEDD) and Lvivvodokanal worked together exclusively online. The first, long-awaited face-to-face meeting between the international colleagues finally took place at the end of September. The invitation was announced in July with a proposal to combine a visit to Ukraine with participation in the Ecoforum 2021 conference in Lviv and the celebrations to mark the 120th anniversary of the municipal water utility Lvivvodokanal.
The visit to Lviv finally made it possible to inspect the on-site arrangements and to undertake corresponding investigations for the project work. Ukrainian colleague Volodymyr Bilynskyy took the visitors on an extensive tour, enabling them to become familiar with the administrative and plant structure and to gain an insight into the work practices. The state-of-the-art customer centre made a lasting impression on the delegation from Dresden. Up to 500 (!) customers visit the centre every day, where they receive support and advice on bills and charges. In addition, Managing Director Dymytro Vankovych offers monthly consultation sessions, primarily to answer questions from citizens about the pricing structure. In Liviv, a very pro-active approach is taken to communicating with the general public and to promoting understanding for the necessary charges. Unfortunately, the level of acceptance for wastewater charges is very low throughout Ukraine.
Afterwards, young engineer Yevgen Pokotskyy gave a guided tour of one of the four segments of the sewage treatment plant in the City of Lviv, which has a population of around 700,000. The inspection of the key plant facilities followed the downstream flow of the wastewater. At the sewage treatment works, there is a mix of dilapidated structural elements from the 1960s and isolated modern additions, such as the fine bar screen and a few clarification tanks. The situation here is similar to that in many East German municipalities after 1990, which is why the Ukrainian side is most interested in the history of SEDD and the experience it has gained. The average age of the technical operators at the sewage treatment plant is well over 60! It is therefore all the more important that the recruitment of trainees/junior staff, staff training, incentive systems for employees and the upgrading of the profession of wastewater technician are now recognised as key elements of the project, and must remain so.
On day two, participation in the Ecoforum 2021 conference was on the agenda, an event that makes a contribution to Ukraine’s sustainable water strategy. Political representatives, academics, companies and manufacturers from the water sector engaged in constructive exchanges on various topics, such as water-industry regulation and pricing. On the topic of investment projects, international cooperation activities were presented and the desire for a strong network of Ukrainian utilities was reaffirmed, supported by the Ukrvodokanalekologija association. In the evening, the intensive two-day visit was rounded off with an informal get-together with the Ukrainian side. On 24 September, the German delegation returned to Dresden.
Despite the limited time available, the trip provided an opportunity to gain valuable insights into the key issues. The project got off to a solid start online, but face-to-face interaction is necessary before project ideas can take shape and the two sides can work together more closely. We intend to maintain the current momentum moving forward. In November, some of our colleagues will be discussing the first technical themes in detail, holding training sessions and refining the basic work plan. In the new year, the staff at Stadtentwässerung Dresden GmbH are looking forward to welcoming to Dresden a delegation from Ukraine, as well as the German partners – Berliner Wasserbetriebe and Stadtentwässerungsbetriebe Köln.