By George Hunt, global consulting partner for water, WCS, Wipro Limited; and Shailendra Singh, Country Head, South Africa, Wipro Limited
Water utilities across the world more than often tackle a similar set of challenges relating to service resilience, customer service, regulation, compliance and operational excellence. South Africa is no different and experience some of these challenges more acutely than other countries. Fortunately, technology is available that can assist to resolved these challenges and improve operations significantly and importantly, service delivery.
When focusing on the African water sector, investments in this emerging market is booming, and as economies across the continent experience rapid growth, demand is outstripping the ability to supply. The delicate balance between supply and demand is progressively being felt in many countries, including South Africa, where limited water resources combined with massive growth in demand and an increasingly urbanised population are putting pressure on water and waste-water infrastructure.
The outcome of this has been a growing number of interruptions to water supply as much-needed upgrades to the existing water utilities infrastructure are delivered. In addition, rising cost of operations and increased consumer demand have created a highly challenging environment for water utility providers. Addressing these challenges requires a much smarter approach to using data and sophisticated analytics technologies to deliver greater insight, improved performance and enhanced efficiency – all of which are essential for aligning supply and demand.
Improving operational efficiency is one of the most crucial aspects to ensuring effective water utility service delivery, as this represents a significant cost. Predictive analytics and intelligent IT solutions can now assist utility providers to reduce costs by enabling them to forecast demand, or by understanding asset condition and criticality in a manner that would enable them to address potential supply or service interruptions before they become crisis. Accurate assessment of asset risk also allows for proactive or predictive maintenance of the infrastructure, which in turn reduces the need for emergency works, and thereby reduce the spending on contracted and hired services.
Another important aspect to improving service delivery is ensuring environmentally sustainable operations and reducing the environmental impact of adverse incidents, if any. This is essential not only from a corporate responsibility perspective but also for ensuring improved customer service. Water leakage is one of the key areas that needs to be addressed, as it impacts both carbon footprint and efficiency. Using analytics solutions, subtle changes such as water pressure reduction can be monitored over time, which can help alert providers about potential water leaks. This enables them to be repaired far more quickly, improving customer service and reducing water wastage. Other common environmental considerations are the quality of water, pollution events and so on.
Leveraging the power of smarter analytical capabilities has enabled water utility providers to make more accurate, fact-based decisions, which in turn has enabled improved performance, better customer service and enhanced operational efficiency. Some of the areas that can be addressed using accurate data and insight include identifying water main burst events, interruptions to supply, low pressure and the time taken to address these issues. In addition, service requests and calls for the same incident can be more effectively grouped for greater efficiency. Proactive handling of leaks can prevent water loss, and faster response times to abnormal weather events such as flooding and water main bursts can reduce wastage and improve service. These insights can then be used to improve services and reduce time to address issues.
In addition, to effectively addressing such problems and challenges, predictive analytics solutions also enable real-time data analysis, which can be used to deliver accurate demand forecasting. This assists water utilities to optimise resource allocation, leverage deeper insight for planning processes, and predict future growth.
Growing populations as well as scarce water resources place additional pressure on infrastructure, and improving performance requires this infrastructure to be utilised optimally in order to ensure service delivery. Harnessing the power of data, analytics and technology can assist water utility providers to improve customer service, operational efficiency and environmental impact, while enabling more effective delivery of services.
Source: African Environment
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The increasing demand for water on the African continent is forcing water utilities to expand and improve their treatment and distribution capacities. African Utility Week event director Evan Schiff says the upcoming National Water Week (17-23 March) and International Water Day (22 March) “are important days to make us aware of the challenges, remind us that every drop counts and that water is a finite resource.”
“The African water industry is changing,” Evan Schiff adds. “In recent years, Africa’s economic growth rates have averaged around 5.2% per annum, making the continent one of the fastest growing regions in the world. Coupled with high population growth, urbanisation and changing lifestyles, the demand for natural resources especially water continues to increase rapidly on the continent with no signs that both growth and demand will slow down any time soon. This highlights an urgent need for water utilities to broaden and expand their infrastructure. At the same time, water as a sector is difficult to manage because conflicting industries are vying for the slice of this liquid pie.”
He continues: “innovation is on the increase and there is an ever growing awareness of the opportunities provided by sharing experiences and new smart water technologies. Once again at the 15th African Utility Week, taking place in Cape Town from 12-14 May, the water conference track offers an exciting spectrum of speakers on the state of the water industry today with both local and global experts sharing their success stories and valuable lessons. The event expo boasts Africa’s largest showcase of technology and service providers in water treatment, leak detection, metering and monitoring and control. It provides an opportunity to invest in knowledge and secure solutions to improve cost reduction strategies, sustainable business models, water management, treatment, supply and infrastructure. Importantly it will aim to find the answers to securing the future of water resources for Africa.”
Water experts and technology
Peter Flower, Director: Water and Sanitation, City of Cape Town, is one of the headline speakers and will address the water delegates on the “Continuous improvement in water management: The Cape Town perspective.” Says Mr Flower: “the City’s water department has been able to very successfully manage its demand growth over the last 15 years, through the co-operation of the residents of Cape Town and the successful implementation of the City’s Water Conservation and Demand Management Strategy. An indication of the success of these efforts is that, to date, the City has never exceeded the water demands experienced in 2000. This is remarkable when you consider there was significant population growth during this period. This has also enabled the city to defer the high capital expenditure on water resources and infrastructure development to a later time-frame.”
More conference highlights include:
“The Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality has adopted a 10-year Water Demand Management Strategy, comprising of programmes to effectively address, separately, technical and non-technical water losses.”
The evolution of water metering technology and the selection process
– Dorothy Batenegi Mabuza, Divisional Head: Water Revenue Management Water & Sanitation Department, Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality
“By 2030, the water industry will provide continuous quality water supply services to 100% of the existing urban and peri-urban residents of the inhabited areas.”
Panel discussion: Securing the future of water resources
– Engineer Harry Sikoma, Western Consulting, Zambia
“By adopting appropriate strategies and technologies, it is possible for utilities to serve and make money in the poor segments of society.”
Delegated management model: An answer to water service provision challenges in informal settlements
– Engineer David Onyango, Managing Director of the Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company Limited, Kenya.
“Currently in South Africa we have a water loss of around 38%, but we believe it is possible to reduce the loss by up to 20%.”
Smart water systems – Using the network
– Klaus Gruebl, Sensus country manager in South Africa
“There is quite a lot of impressive work going on in trying to operationalize the nexus perspective on the continent.”
North-South development cooperation: Best practices across borders
– Paul T. Yillia, consultant at Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
“SeeSaw is working in Angola’s second city, Huambo, to help the government and water utility gain a better understanding of the service level that customers experience.”
The pros and cons of prepaid versus mobile-enabled postpaid approaches for African water utilities
– David Schaub-Jones, Co-Founder, SeeSaw
The 15th African Utility Week and Clean Power Africa is expected to again attract more than 5000 attendees and features 250 exhibitors, 190 speakers, eight conferences, free technical workshops on the expo floor, three high-profile plenary sessions and the coveted industry awards gala dinner. During the African Utility Week Industry Awards, the African Water Utility of the Year, will also be announced.
DNV-GL has already confirmed its exclusive diamond sponsorship of the event while Accenture, Building Energy, MarelliMotori, Rubbytad and Edison Power Group are the platinum sponsors.
African Utility Week and Clean Power Africa are organised by Spintelligent, leading Cape Town-based trade exhibition and conference organiser, and the African office of Clarion Events Ltd, based in the UK.
African Utility Week and Clean Power Africa dates and location:
Exhibition & Conference: 12-14 May 2015
Industry awards: 13 May 2015
Site Visits: 15 May 2015
Location: CTICC, Cape Town
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