Re-Building Water Supply and Collection Systems in Sofia, Bulgaria


Courtesy of Innovyze

The operation of water distribution and collection systems throughout the municipality of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, is the responsibility of Sofiyska Voda AD, a company formed in October 2000 comprising International Water / United Utilities and the City of Sofia. Under a 25-year concession agreement, Sofiyska Voda is undertaking a very significant investment programme that will transform the condition and performance of the city’s water and wastewater networks. During the first 15 years of the 25-year concession, Sofiyska Voda will invest $152m US to help bring Sofia’s water and wastewater networks up to service and environmental standards comparable with the EU. Funding is being provided by a Euro 31m loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), a loan of Euro 18m from International Water Ltd/United Utilities, and the revenues from the customers paying their bills.

The municipality of Sofia has a population of about 1.3 million people and Sofiyska Voda operates and maintains a water supply network that is 3,500 km in length, and a sewerage network of 1,700 km. There are also two water treatment plants in Bistritsa and Pancharevo, and one waste water treatment plant. Each month, company employees read 800,000 individual and 11,000 revenue meters.

Sofia has a proud history in water supply and wastewater infrastructure that dates back to the 1880s with the installation of clay and cast iron pipes bringing water into the city from the Vitosha Mountain. Today the municipality is served by major investments undertaken during the 1930s-1950s such as the Beli Iskar Dam, the Iskar Dam and Rila-Bistritsa Pipeline. Rapid population growth and city expansion has fuelled renewal programmes in the past. Today, the momentum is driven by the need to optimise network performance and customer service.

Understanding the operation of water and wastewater networks is an essential prerequisite to performance optimisation. Like many cities throughout the world, Sofiyska Voda has a large amount of data about Sofia’s network, but not necessarily in a readily accessible and integrated format. To address this United Utilities/International Water and the international consultancy, Ewan Associates Limited, has a team of project managers developing a new asset management system.

As part of this project the team has invested in InfoNet, the network information system from Wallingford Software. InfoNet provides a central storage repository that enables utilities to integrate, clean and analyse their network data to provide operations managers, engineers and planners with up to date information and reports on network infrastructure and performance. In this way InfoNet gives users a clear single picture of their networks which can aid informed, swift and cost-effective decision-making for both day-to-day operational management and long term network planning.

Martin Parker of Sofiyska Voda / Ewan Associates Limited explains: “Using InfoNet we are bringing together GIS network data, manhole surveys, modelling data, cctv surveys and other data such as urban type (e.g. industrial zones), our flooding register and flow monitoring locations. Merging GIS data with manhole paper records is a core activity. Once we have all the data in a single location we can validate, clean and correct the data, for instance pipe connections, invert levels and so on. As InfoNet develops we are also hoping to be able to manage and query our long term flow and rainfall data.”

Once this stage of the project is complete, it is intended that the clean and validated data within InfoNet will provide the basis for a wide variety of forward planning activities. These include master planning to accommodate future growth in Sofia, scheme definition for new and rehabilitation investments, network modelling and service compliance monitoring.

“The benefits derived from implementing a network information system such as InfoNet are considerable,” says Martin Parker. “Above all we can now have confidence in the quality of data upon which we are making our investment decisions. Specific aspects of InfoNet we particularly appreciate include: version control; audit ability; the facility to compare and clean data; data quality flagging; a defined data structure for maintaining data, and faster data processing. SV are already using InfoNet as a processing tool for preparing data prior to modelling, specifically with regard to the Sofia Drainage Area Study that is currently underway. InfoNet is proving invaluable as we plan the renewal and rehabilitation of Sofia’s water and wastewater network infrastructure.”

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