On Wednesday 19 October, the day started early for a full program at K-Water, the Korean company that deals with all water resources related issues that South Korea encounters.
We started the morning at K-Water Academy, located in Daejeon, where we got an introduction by Ms. So-ra Keum about the company and its facilities in Daejeon. Ms. So-ra Keum told us that K-Water is a governmental owned public company, which focuses mostly on integrated water resources management and water supply services, but also on renewable energy, smart water cities, and overseas businesses. Also interesting, is that at K-Water Academy, many foreign officers visit (over 100 per year!) to follow a two-week programme about water resource management, after which they apply the gained knowledge in their own country. They follow this programme at the campus-like academy, which spans over 80,000 m2 and contains a research and development building, flow meter calibration centre, and a demo water purification plant.
After this short introduction, professor Deak Chun Han gave us a lecture about the water resources policy in South Korea. This lecture included a description of the characteristics of the water resources that are present in South Korea. For example, the amount of annual rainfall in South Korea is larger than the global average, but 74% of the precipitation occurs in the summer. This uneven distribution throughout the year causes some problems (about which we later got some more information), but besides this imbalance through time there is also a regional imbalance. The east of the country is very dry, even though there are 62 national rivers (maintained and controlled by the national government) and 3773 regional rivers (maintained and controlled by local governments). Next to a general description about the water resources, professor Han provided us more details about the management of the water systems, such as dams, rivers, sewerage, and water purification plants. The water use in South Korea can be divided into domestic, industrial, irrigational, and maintenance use, which together takes up 37.2% of the 132.3 billion m3/year that is available. 95% of the works required to manage the water systems are covered by the ministry of environment.
To finish his presentation, professor Han summarized the experience of South Korea regarding water resources by using a framework covering the direction and implementation of the water resources management approach. This was done for three different time periods, starting at the start of the rapid development period of South Korea (1965 – 1990), followed by the ‘environmental’ period (1991 – 2000), with lastly the integrated water resource management (IWRM) period (2001 – current). During this first period of development, the direction was mostly into economic development since South Korea was very poorly developed (a GDP of $63 compared to a GDP of over $30,000 today). During this period, developments were led by the central government and water related affairs were covered by the ministry of construction. This is also the period in which K-Water originates, and during which nine large dams were constructed with the aim of flood protection. During the ‘environmental’ period, there were some accidents with dams and reservoirs that affected the approach to water management greatly. The focus shifted from economic development to a focus on the environmental impact of water resource management, which led to the cancellation of some planned construction works of multipurpose dams. During this period, the responsibility for water related affairs became divided between the ministries of construction and environment. Now in the current period, the full responsibility lies at the ministry of environment. An integrated management approach is used in order to deal with climate change, but this is very much an ongoing process. A comprehensive national water management plan has been set up for 2021-2030, which also includes measures to counteract floods and droughts in the country.
After this very interesting lecture, we got a tour around one of the lab facilities, the water purification plant. The water purification plant exists out of two seperate lines. In this way two different test runs can be done in the same time. The purificiation lines exist out of multiple steps. One of them is the flocculation reactor. This will mix the water, which follows the rapid dispersion of coagulation. Further, the sedimentation basin is used to divide the suspension from the water, based on the mass difference. Later in the process a dual-media filter is placed, this removes the suspended solids from the water.
When looking at the future they are planning to make ultra pure water, this water is more clean than the pure water which is currently made.
With the image of all the machinery still in our minds, the excursion continued at the K-Water headquarters. Here, we got a lecture by principal researcher Wan-Hee Cho. He again explained about the water resources that are present in South Korea, but also focused on the issues that are related to or affect these resources (think about steep slopes in rivers, climate change or water crises). As explained before, regional and seasonal imbalance lead to issues such as floods and droughts, which K-Water tries to deal with by means of extra spillways in their dam reservoirs and extra water supply to their reservoirs. On top of that, they have an extensive toolkit, named K-Water Hydro Intelligent Toolkit (or K-HIT in short), which is a decision making support system that includes various parts. There is GIOS, for hydropower generation, RWSS, for reservoir water supply, FAS, for flood analysis, PFS, for precipitation forecasting, and RHDAPS, for hydrological data acquisition and processing. All these parts combined help to support decision making, for example for prereleases of reservoir water when a peak precipitation is expected, or for precautionary drought responses in case a dry period is forecasted. Besides this advanced toolkit, K-Water is still developing new technology such as a digital twin management platform that can provide flood surveillance for local governments as well. For all these developments, they co work with 30 countries using various technologies and experiences.
After this interesting talk, we finished this first part of the day with a look into the control room at the K-Water headquarters. Here we could also see some live video footage from various dams across the country. This made us very enthousiastic about the final excursion of the day, the Daecheong dam. But more information about this excursion can be found in the next visit report!