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Ensuring safe drinking water, even after heavy storms

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

Story of a Swiss commune that chose BactoSense

Woman in rain coat looking at BactoSense

Located in the heart of the Swiss Alps, Saxon (VS) is home to a small community of 3000 households.

The municipality, situated at the foot of the legendary Pierre Avoi, obtains most of its water from pure and natural mountain springs. Fed by rainwater and filtered by the mountain rocks, the drinking water in the village is palatable, cold, and fresh all year.

Heavy rainfall may lead to water contamination

A few years ago, when the Valais municipality announced that their water was contaminated with bacteria and tap water shouldn’t be consumed without boiling it first, the inhabitants of Saxon were taken aback.

The region had experienced heavy rainfall, and the local authorities suspected that the inevitable weather event had caused microbial contamination of their natural spring water – confirmed by a laboratory a few days later.

Family walking through a flood

Following the applicable emergency protocol, the entire water system was flushed, and water had to be treated with chemicals – such as chlorine – for as long as the contamination was detectable.

Coincidentally, two residents were working for a local automation company called PMAX.

On behalf of their community, they used their knowledge to find a faster approach to better respond to possible water contamination in the future. The experts developed and presented their suggestions to the municipal authorities using their extensive knowledge of automation.

Finding the right balance

Faced with the challenge of meeting the local community's demand for untreated water while limiting the risk of contamination, the forward-thinking municipal authorities were open to PMAX's holistic approach.

To implement their strategy, they needed a rapid and fully autonomous microbiological water analysis instrument that could be installed directly at the water reservoir. So, PMAX contacted an EPFL spin-off specialising in this field, bNovate Technologies.

A groundbreaking solution for safe water anytime, anywhere

There, they found BactoSense the perfect solution for their process. This compact and automated flow cytometer can give a precise water analysis every 30 minutes, making it ideal for continuous water microbiological monitoring.

Complicated pipes

With this concept in mind, PMAX has designed a turnkey solution to monitor, evaluate and manage water quality continuously.

The screening for changes in the microbial composition of water performed by BactoSense is now linked to the municipal control and visualization system via PLC and SCADA. A multi-step analysis method using real-time meteorological data given by meteosuisse ensures safe drinking water even in extreme weather conditions - such as heavy rains.

Peace of mind around the clock

Since installing BactoSense, local authorities have had peace of mind knowing that the water is being monitored 24/7. They can also access the results online for an optimized monitoring and control process. bNovate’s digital, high-tech measurement, combined with PMAX's expertise, provides an automated escalation method in case bacteria increase in the water network, allowing an immediate reaction.

BactoSense hanging on the wall

Using BactoSense reduces the risk of microbial contamination, eliminates unnecessary heavy chlorination, and enables fast intervention.

In addition, early detection of microbial changes in water is used to determine when to collect grab samples for further analysis. Tested for other incidents, this well-designed solution has repeatedly proven itself.

Today, whatever the weather situation, the inhabitants of Saxon continue to enjoy their natural spring water with serenity.


You can find an article on Aqua & Gas online about the BactoSense in Saxon (in French, "Automatiser pour garantier la qualité de l'eau potable").

Do you want to test BactoSense and experiment with why it is becoming the new standard in water monitoring? Contact us, and one of our experts will contact you!


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