How can Ukrainian water utility Lvivvodokanal optimise its services? And how can its German partners provide support? The German-Ukrainian utility partnership took the answers to these questions as the basis for drawing up an ambitious work plan. The focus is not exclusively on technical subjects.
Lvivvodokanal is owned by the City of Lviv in western Ukraine and is the largest water supply and sanitation utility in the region. Its catchment area is home to around 730,000 people and 10,000 companies. Lvivvodokanal operates a water supply network of around 2,500 kilometres in length. The city’s drainage system consists of a 765 km-long sewerage network, 15 wastewater pump stations and two sewage treatment plants.
The municipal enterprise Nadvirnavodokanal is responsible for the drinking water supply and wastewater disposal of the town of Nadvirna and the surrounding villages with about 21,000 inhabitants and four industrial enterprises. The company employs 12 people. Its tasks include a 30 km long canal network, five pumping stations and the central sewage treatment plant, which belongs to the local oil processing company. Nadvirnavodokanal is planning to build a new wastewater treatment plant (required investment about UAH 234 million), modernise the water supply system and optimise sludge treatment. The company has prepared the planning documents for the construction of the sewage treatment plant and wants to train and prepare its employees for the future tasks.
The municipal enterprise supplies the inhabitants of the city of Ternopil and four neighbouring villages with approx. 240,000 inhabitants and 4,000 businesses and organisations with drinking water and takes care of wastewater disposal. The company employs about 500 people and operates a water network of about 400 km and a wastewater network of 300 km, two water intake points, eight wastewater pumping stations and the central wastewater treatment plant. The company is planning the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant, the modernisation of the networks and the infrastructure. To this end, it is actively working with water associations and international financial institutions, e.g. World Bank, which are promoting the company.
Ukrvodokanalekologiya, as the largest association of water companies in Ukraine, supports the transfer of knowledge from leading German water companies to Ukrainian water companies. It also accompanies Ukrainian water companies in operational and organisational changes that lead to more sustainability and efficiency of the water sector in Ukraine. Ukrvodokanalekologiya is ready to support the project and act as a multiplier to make the project results available to other Ukrainian municipal companies. Ultimately, improvements will be achieved for the entire Ukrainian water sector.
Stadtentwässerung Dresden GmbH provides wastewater collection, drainage and treatment services as well as conducting environmental analyses and planning and constructing wastewater infrastructure. The company serves around 670,000 customers in eastern Saxony. With some 400 employees, annual turnover of EUR 85 million and an annual investment budget of around EUR 30 million, it is one of the largest utilities in the sector.
Berliner Wasserbetriebe is responsible for water supply and wastewater management services in Berlin and parts of Brandenburg. It sold 220 million cubic metres of water in 2019. The drainage network comprises almost 10,000 kilometres of sewers. Berliner Wasserbetriebe is wholly owned by the Federal State of Berlin (Land Berlin).
The Utility Partnership initially started with a cooperation with Lvivvodokanal in Western Ukraine. However, the project activities temporarily slowed down by the Covid-19 pandemic, which made the project's progress quite challenging.
After a one-year project period with profound insights into the status assessment and operation of a water company in Ukraine, as well as in joint discussions among all project participants, it became evident that the challenges for Ukrainian (waste) water operators are basically similar to those in Germany. The different fields of action require a solution-oriented joint approach.
It is barely possible for water companies to cover the operation costs of the pipeline network, wastewater treatment plants with revenues from water and wastewater charges.Therefore, the partners plan to develop a practical guideline on tariff pricing. Perspectively, a dialogue with government and policymakers needs to be established.
In Ukraine, as in Germany, it is difficult to meet the demand for skilled workers in the water sector. On average, company employees are aged between 55 and 65, wages are relatively low and job profiles are not particularly attractive for qualified young people. Therefore, the operators exchange ideas on how to create incentives for business loyalty and how to improve the image of the sector.
For the maintenance of the wastewater network, the need for human resources is very high. There is great potential for cost savings through qualification measures. The partners are planning technical trainings on the reduction of water losses, quality standards and treatment of sewage sludge. In this context, special attention will be paid to the training of multipliers who will disseminate the knowledge they have gained. Besides, sustainable investments and modern plant management could save a lot of energy in the future.
The existing operator partnership with Lvivvodokanal has been joined by the water companies of the cities of Ternopil and Nadvirna. The inclusion of the new partners fundamentally contributes to the idea of helping neighbours and supports a sustainable water management strategy for small and medium-sized municipal operators in Western Ukraine.
Synergies in the exchange of knowledge and experience - for example through advisory services, workshops and trainings, are a key element of the operator partnership and are substantially driven by Ukrainian needs.
Consistent networking among Ukrainian operators, including with the association Ukrovodokanalekologyja, which represents the link to the governmental authorities, enables the elaboration, implementation and maintenance of sustainable solutions in the long term. Synergies have to be used in a targeted manner.
Looking ahead, this cooperation is to be considered the cornerstone of a potential operator network of regional water companies in (western) Ukraine, in order to achieve significant improvements in drinking water and wastewater management. In a first step, the partners are to act as multipliers for other water and wastewater actors in Ukraine, and in the long term they will be trained to engage in activities beyond the scope of this project.
Since February 2022, the operating partnership is being confronted with the burdening situation of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. The new circumstances no longer allow for the project work that has been developed so far. From now on, the exchange between the partners takes place online and at irregular frequencies.
The partnership work is strongly influenced by the limited operational capacities of the Ukrainian colleagues. Depending on the availability of electricity, taking into account air alerts and the ad-hoc deployments of the Ukrainian colleagues to maintain drinking water supply and sewage disposal, the partners nevertheless try to find creative solutions to hold on a technical discourse on the core topics of the partnership. The cooperation is being adapted to the new situation and needs. It was essential to align and reduce the core topics and to focus on urgently needed procurement of technical equipment. Travelling from Ukraine to Germany is possible with a considerable administrative bureaucracy, but may have to be cancelled shortly before the trip starts.
The provision of technical equipment and the support through pragmatic technical exchange help the Ukrainian partners in this special situation. The highest priority is the provision of technical equipment to ensure services in case of blackouts or increased load. Despite the difficult economic circumstances (volatile prices, long delivery times, etc.) it has already been possible to purchase emergency power generators, various (submersible) pumps, half-steal products, tools and communication devices.
New topics for exchange formats include:
First workshops could already be carried out.
“Enterprises cannot ‘not have’ an impact. Stadtentwässerung Dresden therefore wants to work with Lvivvodokanal and put the wastewater management system in Lviv on a more sustainable footing. We would like to share our know-how and benefit from the know-how of our partners in Lviv. Their tendering system, for example, is very interesting. The experience we have gained in projects in Ukraine, Jordan and Viet Nam will be very helpful for us in this long-term partnership.”
Willy Lenk, Marketing and Sales Officer, Stadtentwässerung Dresden
“In addition to our comprehensive work packages, we have already established a good working level rapport and received many practical tips from our colleagues in Dresden, Berlin and Cologne. After all, we are facing similar problems. The crucial point is that our experts, together with the German utilities, are ready to embrace innovation and change – this is the only way to sustainably improve our water supply and wastewater management systems.”
Volodymyr Bilynskyy, Deputy Chief Engineer, Lvivvodokanal
Lvivvodokanal, Lviv, Ukraine
Stadtentwässerung Dresden (Lead-partner)
Berliner Wasserbetriebe (Participating partner)
Stadtentwässerungsbetriebe Köln (Participating partner)
Key thematic areas
Optimising infrastructure and processes
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