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Water Provides Automation Opportunities in Italy

Companies are looking to upgrade an aging Italian water system, thanks to a new law providing for water management by private utilities.

Everyone knows the importance of water—a primary global resource. Italy is rich with it, but the 8 billion cubic meters of water the nation annually has at its disposal are 27 percent wasted, on average, because of pipeline leaks, according to Siemens AG (, the Germany-based industrial and automation supplier. Old and poorly managed distribution systems complete the picture: 13,000 pipelines for a total length of 270,000 kilometers, built almost a decade ago, without an integrated plan, because of the characteristic Italian approach to government based on many local communities with no common jurisdiction.

According to Siemens, the Italian water market is worth 1.5 billion euros, with a predictable annual growth of 4 percent to 5 percent. Traditionally dominated by municipal companies, this market is rapidly changing with more private companies entering. Some of them have successfully entered the light and gas business, and are looking with great interest toward the water market, especially now that a recently approved law calls for water management to be assigned to private utilities.

These companies could adopt the same solutions they are using for energy and light management to control and monitor the water systems, creating interesting synergies. They could also act to reduce energy consumption, another issue that is in the spotlight in Italy and attracting many big players.

Leak finding

Many investments are likely to be made in the future to develop new, innovative water treatment processes or to find ways to upgrade old technologies. As far as automation is concerned, discussions are centered on specific instrumentation, automation systems and remote control solutions to discover pipeline leaks or pump failures in real time to solve problems immediately, avoiding waste. Moreover, automated systems are needed to manage places with no human presence, avoiding water emergencies that are frequent in Italy, especially in summer and in the South.

In the end, new plants will need security systems, electric solutions, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, among other things. The situation also presents an interesting opportunity for vendors to provide hardware or software systems to control water balance and quality, or to help operators with user-friendly human-machine interfaces.

About the author

Ilaria De Poli,, is an editor at Fiera Milano Editore, a magazine covering automation and manufacturing in Italy.

Siemens AG

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