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  • Dear Readers!

    Many people will be looking at their calendar with a feeling of disbelief that this turbulent year is already coming to a close. 2021 has been a year that will remain in our memories for a long time to come. Here in Germany, the devastating floods that hit the state of Rhineland-Palatinate and parts of North Rhine-Westphalia were a strong reminder that we finally have to up our efforts and take some serious steps to curb climate change. And while the people living in the affected regions are still clearing up the rubble – also thanks to the rapid help from the circular economy – and working to rebuild their lives, the world met in Glasgow to argue about whether or not to phase out coal. At the same time, covid came back again with a vengeance this autumn. Hesitant politicians and organisational failure came up against a waning vaccine immunity and vaccine scepticism among a minority of the population, who seem determined to ignore scientific facts. And, this year was an election year – the end of the Chancellor Merkel era – and a perfect storm had been brewing in a political vacuum as the slow-moving coalition talks meant the new Government could not take up the reins. It is high time that the right course is set – in politics, in the economy and in society.

    Faced with such difficult situations, it is then almost a minor miracle that our family business has – together with and thanks to our partners and customers – had an exceptionally good year. Much of this can be put down to the global economy restarting in the spring after the strict covid measures were provisionally lifted. The flipside of unrestrained production activities and a highly charged global trade, though, soon became evident: a general shortage of raw materials. Anyone trying to build a house and get hold of timber or plastic pipes in 2021 certainly know all about this problem. As the year drew to an end, it was even difficult to get hold of recycling sacks because, being in such high demand, there is a shortage of recycled plastic pellets.  

    Which brings us to the subjects that unite the essence of the two previous paragraphs: climate action and resource conservation. The wide range of services that our company delivers plays a major role in helping to solve the problems mentioned above. By recycling materials, producing renewable energy and offering sustainable services, we are easing both problems at the same time. Each tonne of raw material recycled by our company not only conserves virgin resources but also cuts large volumes of carbon emissions. Along the way, we are also gradually switching over to climate-neutral logistics. Inspired, by the way, as well by our sister company Transdev, which already deploys whole fleets of electric buses in many cities around the world – a role model and an incentive for us to do even more.

    And so there is some good news as well at the end of this eventful year – and we would like to thank you all for the great collaboration work that made this possible. May we also take this opportunity to wish you a happy Christmas and all the very best for the coming year.

    Yours

    Ludger Rethmann

Hours of heavy rainfall in the middle of the summer

Many people in Germany are still in a state of shock: a period of constant heavy rainfall this summer caused severe flooding, people lost their lives, houses were swept away. The lives of tens of thousands of local residents were turned completely upside down within just a few hours. Even the people who “only” had to deal with flooded basements still look at the skies with trepidation whenever there is persistent rain.

The low pressure system named “Alfred” led to Goslar, a city in the German state of Lower Saxony, being hit by heavy rain and flash floods in July 2017. The normally harmless River Abzucht broke its banks, flooded the old city, destroyed bridges and damaged houses and streets in the town, which is home to 40,000 people.

New early warning systems detect critical conditions quickly and reliably

  • The number of heavy rainfall events has increased by around 20% since the middle of the 1980s. With the weather station network in Germany being fairly dispersed, it is still not possible for rainfall to be detected early in small geographical areas. This, in turn, makes it very difficult to predict flooding.

    The so-called Internet of Things (IoT) – and low power sensors in particular – could help make life safer for people living in flood-prone areas: new early warning systems can be created by using data from a variety of measuring devices (such as ultrasound sensors and rain gauges) that are directly connected to the internet. Interfaces linking the system to meteorological databases can further improve the performance of the early warning systems.

    As a result, these new flood management systems can monitor the water levels of rivers, sewers and flood-control reservoirs in real time, detect critical conditions quickly and reliably and adjust the controls of the impacted water facilities accordingly. By doing so, they play a key role in helping to prevent flood damage and initiate protective measures.

    • The water levels of rivers, sewers and flood-control reservoirs are fed into the flood management systems in real time using low power sensors – as is the case here outside Goslar

Energy-efficient sensors transmit data from buildings and shafts

REMONDIS Aqua also deploys this technology. Be it in the south of Lower Saxony, at Lake Constance or in the Lausitz region: rain sensors and sensors in sewers and town drainage systems gather data that is fed into an early warning system on the Internet of Things helping people to forecast potential flooding. The company’s branch in Goslar, a city situated in the Harz region, also uses data recorded in the town’s complex drainage network to help manage the system. The team can even optimise the capacity of the flood-control reservoirs for up to three days in advance when faced with extreme conditions. The IoT technology, though, can also benefit areas of water management that are less risk-prone – such as in the following case:

Data from the sewer conduits help the company in Lindau (Lake Constance) to detect when water has been discharged into the sewer network by third parties. This information helps prevent the system from being overloaded in the future and saves energy. What’s more, the data can also be used to calculate what system capacity will be required in the future. By doing so, sewer simulation models can be precisely calibrated making it easier to plan and carry out important building work on the town’s infrastructure. The decentralised pumping systems operated by Wasserverband Lausitz Betriebsführungsgesellschaft (aka WAL-Betrieb) are also connected to the internet. As a result, the company’s staff do not need to travel long distances to inspect the pumps in person so often – and fewer trips mean fewer emissions helping to protect the environment and curb climate change. REMONDIS Aqua’s IoT projects help to protect people against floods and drive forward digitisation in the water management sector.

How IoT technology benefits water management:

  • Processes are more efficient because the plants, facilities and pipes can be monitored constantly and the data generated analysed
  • The interconnected logistics allows transport routes to be planned in detail helping to conserve natural resources
  • The sensors and their data make water and wastewater infrastructure more transparent, allow leaks, pump outages, electrical short circuits and supply bottlenecks to be detected much earlier and even for them to be predicted in advance
  • The sensors, which can be installed in a whole variety of locations, transmit their environmental data using, for example, LoRaWAN radio technology. This has a large operating range, transmits from buildings and shafts and is energy efficient, good value and secure thanks to end-to-end encryption

What is the ‘IoT’?

The Internet of Things encompasses all devices that are connected to the internet. Physical objects are depicted and connected to one another virtually. As a result, they can perform various tasks for their owner. The data situation is more transparent as the devices are able to communicate with each other, which enables better decisions to be made. The IoT is used in a whole range of areas – from the provision of general information, to simplified visualisation, all the way through to automated warning and emergency functions.

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