A reliable water supply for the Ruhr area

The Westphalia Water Works GmbH relies on Siemens process control technology to ensure the quality and quantity of the drinking water supply for 1.5 million people in the Ruhr area. The central process control system enables a small service team to efficiently handle the comprehensive infrastructure.

Roughly 4.6 million people live along the Ruhr River in the most heavily populated area of Germany. The river was an important waterway and water supply in the midst of the industrial development of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and it therefore assumed a key role as a center of commerce in the Ruhr area named after it. Mills and mines were developed and provided for the prosperity of the region. And then suddenly the Ruhr needed help, because the boom it spawned had a significant downside: wastewater from industry, mining, and agriculture resulted in such heavy pollution that the Ruhr was at risk as the main water supply for the population. The people of Westphalia quickly took action to stabilize the water quality of "their" river with the introduction of the Ruhr Cleanliness Act in 1913, one of the first-ever environmental-protection laws in Germany.

Today Wasserwerke Westfalen GmbH also acts with a sense of responsibility for the river in fulfilling its role as water supplier. It provides roughly 100 million cubic meters of drinking water to 1.5 million residents per year. “However, we’re not just a supplier of drinking water, but also a producer of regenerative electric power with five hydropower plants along the Ruhr. In addition, we operate many water towers, pressurizing systems, and other facilities for our two parent companies. The network extends from the Münsterland region in the south to the central and eastern Ruhr area all the way to the Sauerland region in the north,” says Michael Schwarze, head of central operations management at Wasserwerke Westfalen GmbH. 

End-to-end solution

As a water utility, we think in generations. We bear a great responsibility for the quality of life of those living in the region.
Michael Schwarze, Wasserwerke Westfalen GmbH

The central control room as the heart of the system

Before centralization, all automation systems and computers for the individual power plants and facilities operated independently from one another. "Administration, engineering, and all of the other tasks that arise always had to be handled on-site. This required enormous effort, both logistically and in terms of time," recalls Achim Koslowski, the manager responsible for instrumentation and control at Wasserwerke Westfalen GmbH.

Now all of the facilities and stations are controlled and monitored from a central control room. This has many advantages: "Thanks to central engineering, we not only save travel time, we can also easily manage the extensive modernization measures and many components and systems with our comparatively small team of four project engineers. Projects can be better planned and structured, and we can also assign subprojects to our external partners more easily than before. Thanks to the preliminary work in the migration project, we now also have an absolutely stable and reliable solution, so that we can concentrate fully on our new projects," Koslowski explains.

Or, put another way: future projects can be easily planned, and their simple and cost-effective control will ensure that the drinking water in the Ruhr area will continue to be high-quality and affordable in the years to come.

The central engineering with Siemens technology reduces travel time and makes project planning much easier.
Michael Schwarze, Wasserwerke Westfalen GmbH

Reduced programming expenditure saves time

These advantages explain why a standardized operating philosophy is so important to the utility. This philosophy also means that operations are structured in the same way on all hierarchical levels and at all locations. The foundation is a standard library of functions from Siemens for implementing automation and process control tasks.

The benefit is clear to Schwarze: "We have to represent our complex system structure with a wide range of technology and operating hierarchies in the control system. The standard library allows us to easily solve many tasks without extensive programming effort using standardized and tested modules. We’ve largely standardized functions and messages so that the process control always has the same look and feel."

The process control system isn’t the first solution in which Wasserwerke Westfalen GmbH has relied on Siemens as a dependable technology partner. Before the Simatic PCS 7, there were already drive and communication components that were remarkable for their reliability and high quality in operation. That’s why the water utility is currently implementing additional projects with Siemens components, including field equipment, switchgear, protection systems, and network security solutions.

"We always have something to do and improvements to make in our equipment so that we can ensure a reliable supply of drinking water for the next generation," says Schwarze. "And in Siemens we’ve found a partner that can support us with successful solutions."

Since its founding in 2001, Wasserwerke Westfalen GmbH has been a supplier for its parent companies DEW21 and Gelsenwasser. These companies supply drinking water directly to the public as well as serving other municipal utilities companies. In addition to drinking water production, Wasserwerke Westfalen GmbH is also active in power generation. From five hydroelectric power plants, the company supplies up to 25 million kWh of green electricity per year to the public grid and thus makes a significant contribution to reducing CO2 emissions.

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