The valve against global water losses

Large amounts of water are consistently lost through leaks in urban water distribution networks. GF’s NeoFlow polymer pressure-regulating valve (PRV) is an innovative solution that helps strengthen aging water infrastructures by protecting pipes against bursting, while also significantly reducing energy consumption, CO2 emissions, and labor costs.

Freshwater accounts for only 2.5% of the Earth’s total water supply. More than two-thirds is contained in glaciers and permanent snow cover or ice.1 Worldwide, over half of the planet’s 7.8 billion inhabitants do not have enough water for at least one month of the year. Water is a scarce resource, and GF’s solutions are helping address the challenge of how to transport it safely and sustainably to an ever-growing population.

Non-revenue water is the difference between the water that enters a distribution system and the amount of water that is billed to consumers. According to Liemberger/Wyatt, between 20 to 50% of water in distribution infrastructures is lost due to leakages.2 Non-revenue water has a significant economic impact, with an estimated 39 billion US dollars lost globally each year.3

Marco Alberti, Sales Manager at GF Piping Systems Italy, checking twin pressure-regulating valves to control downstream pressure regulation.

Up to 63% reduction in pipe bursts

In Italy, an average of around 37% of water is lost during transportation.4 One of GF’s customers, IRETI, which supplies over 2.8 million customers in nearly 300 municipalities in northwestern Italy, is tackling the problem at the source.

GF introduced NeoFlow, a polymer pressure-regulating valve, to the company two years ago in Reggio Emilia. The experts from IRETI were particularly impressed by its simplicity and innovative design. They later participated in a pilot at an independent, certified laboratory in Nantes (France), which enabled them to observe the product in action. IRETI has now been using the GF pressure valves in the water network for one year.

Antonio Gualtieri (l.), Technical Manager for Water Leakage Detection at IRETI, and Marco Alberti fine-tuning the pressure regulating valve.

Olivier Narbey, Senior Business Development Manager at GF Piping Systems, explains how a pressure valve can prevent water loss. “The global population has grown rapidly, but the water systems often cannot keep up with this development and, in many places, were not designed for the volumes of water that now flow through them. As a result, the pipes eventually burst at some point,” he says.

Narbey is an advocate of modernizing water networks through pressure management – and this is where NeoFlow comes into play. “You have to think of it as a kind of anti-aging treatment for water networks. NeoFlow regulates flow rates, thus limiting unnecessary stress on infrastructure,” he says. Antonio Gualtieri, Technical Manager for Water Leakage Detection at IRETI, confirms its effectiveness. “Thanks to pressure management, we have been able to achieve a 63% reduction in pipe bursts.”

“Pressure management with NeoFlow is like an anti-aging treatment for water networks.”

Olivier Narbey, Senior Business Development Manager, GF Piping Systems
An underground water reservoir near the University of Parma (Italy) is equipped with GF pressure-regulating valves and supplies a large district.

Smaller environmental footprint than metal products

Valves made of polymer have a smaller environmental footprint than metal products, according to Narbey. They have a longer operational lifetime than metal valves and are practically maintenance-free. Because metal corrodes, metal valves need regular maintenance, which requires resources, expertise, and energy, he says.

In addition, NeoFlow is five times more compact than a standard metal pressure valve and can be installed in a confined space by one person. Retrofitting with a metal pressure-regulating valve requires more than one person. “A metal product is up to nine times heavier than one made of polymer. Therefore, a lot more energy is required to transport it to the site, resulting in higher CO2 emissions,” Narbey adds.

IRETI, one of the Italian Iren Group’s companies, specializes in the distribution of water, electricity, and gas. It provides an integrated water service in the areas of water supply, sewerage, and wastewater treatment for nearly 300 municipalities in Emilia Romagna, Liguria, and Piedmont. Through a distribution system of over 23’000 kilometers, IRETI distributes more than 290 million m³ of water per year to 2.8 million customers.


“We hope to see more products that are as reliable as this one.”


Antonio Gualtieri, technical manager for water leakage detection at IRETI.

How does a pressure management system benefit IRETI?

With fewer pipes bursting, we reduce water losses and resource consumption. The operational lifetime of the pipes increases, and at the same time, there is less need for maintenance, helping us to devote more time to finding leaks.

What are the biggest challenges that pressure management systems pose for water networks?

The challenges depend largely on the type of water distribution infrastructure and where the pressure valves are installed. One of the biggest challenges is the existence of high hydraulic pressure – the difference in water volume at the inlet and outlet. Another challenge is rapid changes in consumption and the associated pressure instability.

What advice would you give water utility companies looking to design and implement a new pressure management project?

The first thing is to identify an area of the network where frequent pipe bursts occur. They should then form what we call a “district”, which means cutting off that section of the network and installing pressure-regulating and measuring devices at the point of entry. GF has proven to be an excellent supplier of high-quality products in this area, and we hope to see more products that are as innovative and, above all, as reliable as this one.

1 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO): AQUASTAT (10/2016).
2 Liemberger, Roland and Wyatt, Alan, "Quantifying the global non-revenue water problem", 2018.
3 ibid.
4 Utilitalia – Istat., 2020.