In late September, the Utility Partnership Ukraine had the opportunity to welcome a delegation of ten people from the partner operators in Lviv, Ternopil and Nadvirna. The partnership faces difficult challenges in its day-to-day project work due to the ongoing war. A visit by the Ukrainian partners to Germany requires not only increased logistics, but also official permission for each male traveller. Until shortly before the bus left for Krakow (because it is only possible to fly to Germany from Poland), it was not clear whether all the men would be allowed to leave the country. Everyone involved was overwhelmed with joy when the news finally arrived: 'We made it!' So the visit was able to start as planned on Monday 25 September 2022 in Berlin.
In its capacity as co-partner of the utility partnership, Berliner Wasserbetriebe had put together an interesting agenda on various aspects of 'water supply'.
The hosts presented the work of the waterworks in depth, and provided a detailed overview of the operation of the water intake, including the key performance indicators. The visitors were also shown the work of the central control centre, which monitors the water intake, the pumping stations and the water treatment stations. Further topics of the professional exchange were operation and aeration, the use of sand filters, and the tour of a construction site where new wells were being drilled.
On the Tuesday, the agenda focused on the visit to the operations department of the water supply network, and on getting to know the team there. Highlights included an introduction to the work process of trenchless replacement of water supply network pipes, a demonstration of the search for hidden leaks, and a tour and demonstration of special vehicles used in the search and location of accidents in water supply networks.
Coincidentally, a search for ten suitcases that had arbitrarily been booked onto another flight by the airline had been under way since the Sunday evening. But this problem was also successfully solved with some excitement and great efforts during the night.
The Wednesday began with an excursion to the Technical University of Berlin, where a lecture on reducing leakages in water supply networks was presented in the Fluid System Dynamics (FSD) laboratory. A so-called 'digital twin' – an immaterial object from the real world in the digital world – was demonstrated in a modern software application for process visualisations for machines and plants – 'SCADA system'. The hosts also presented the latest method of flood protection in the city in times of torrential rainfall.
The Ukrainian colleagues then travelled on by bus to Dresden, where a joint tour of the city, including an informal dinner in a historical atmosphere, formed the kick-off for the next part of the meeting.
In the morning, a young colleague from the foreman's department gave the Ukrainian delegates a tour of the Dresden sewage treatment plant. During the tour he answered in a professional manner the visitors' many questions about the various treatment stages in wastewater purification.
An intensive discourse on the priorities of the work plan and the methods to be chosen filled the afternoon. Key topics highlighted included the improvement of plant management in the field of water supply and wastewater disposal, the treatment of sewage sludge, and the discharge and treatment of industrial wastewater and rainwater. Notwithstanding this, maintaining the operational capability and the upkeep of utilities affected by the current state of war or force majeure play an important role (blackout plan).
In the afternoon, an unscheduled visit to a flood pumping station was organised. During the visit, delegates were given an overview of the latest procedures to prevent the flooding of sewage treatment plants and to prevent untreated sewage from entering the River Elbe during floods.
The final working day involved an excursion to the Helmholtz Centre and a visit to the CLEWATEC laboratory. The delegates also received a technical introduction to developments in improved wastewater aeration. This was followed by a visit to a waterworks in Dresden, and a glimpse into various water treatment technologies. The day was rounded off with a guided tour of Volkswagen's Gläserne Manufaktur, followed by a final dinner.
In the final reflection of the trip on the day of departure (01/10/2022), all participants agreed that this working meeting had given so much valuable input, strengthened the bonds between 'acquaintances old and new', and highlighted the value of utility partnership even in particularly difficult situations. The week ended with these honest words on all sides: 'Colleagues have become friends’. This made it difficult to say goodbye and travel home into the unknown.
Unfortunately, the planned follow-up meeting – starting at Stadtentwässerungsbetriebe Köln AöR and ending at Stadtentwässerung Dresden GmbH – could not take place at the end of October. The trip could not be approved because the critical infrastructure in Ukraine is coming under increasing attack, and in an emergency every hand is needed. Once again, a rethink and some creative ideas are required.
The programme now includes effective distance training and workshops, as well as focused work in smaller working groups. And let's not forget: delivery of the extensive aid shipment at the end of this year, which will include technical goods to maintain the services of the three partner utilities.