Using data to fix SA’s water challenges


Durban Mayor, Mxolisi Kaunda in swimsuit with goggles. Photo supplied

JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – THE Municipality of Ethekwini, which includes the holiday playground Durban, is gearing up for a bumper tourist season.

However, it faces many challenges, including sewage leaking into the sea—forcing the closure of beaches—and losing revenue from its water.

These issues could be a thing of the past if authorities embraced technology to fix South Africa’s water challenges, an expert has said.

Xylem, the global water technology company, cited a recent analysis of reports estimating that Johannesburg loses 39 percent of its pumped water, Nelson Mandela Bay’s losses are 44 percent and 46 percent of Mangaung water goes missing.

The eThekwini leads with 56 percent, tallying losses in the region of R5 million (US$291 300) daily.

Xylem noted those funds could help fix the sewage problems and promote safe, clean beaches.

Experts refer to such losses as non-revenue water.

It is paid water that never reaches its destination due to leaks and theft, ultimately leaving the bulk buyer—the municipality—without any returns.

EThekwini could reportedly `recoup nearly R2 billion annually if it reduced non-revenue water losses.

Chetan Mistry, Xylem Africa’s Strategy and Marketing Manager, said digital solutions were empowering water utilities in new ways and they gain better insight into the condition and performance of their water networks and systems, using data that is already available or quick to generate.

“The right combination of data experts, technologies and engineering skills can give every water utility actionable information on everything from pipes and valves to pumping stations and sewage systems,” the executive said.

“Using data to manage, optimise and proactively maintain water infrastructure is delivering excellent results,” Mistry said.

Xylem has reported case studies where customers stopped repeated disruptions and reduced their capital planning time by 75 percent.

Mistry believes the answer is to use data and pinpoint the areas that need priority attention, then develop a longer-term plan for maintenance and replacements.

“But many utilities don’t do this because they think they don’t have enough information. That’s often not the case. They already sit on a wealth of insights.”

Meanwhile, predictive data tools and services are starting to turn the tide and put water operators back in charge of their sites and infrastructure.

Leading water solution providers combine digital platforms with data literacy to help their customers develop future-proof networks that can handle variability.

“Having the means to harvest and interpret data is one aspect of data solutions,” Mistry said.

The company believes if South African cities have the correct information, they can recoup millions in lost water revenue and realise maintenance savings.

Mistry noted the cities already have the data to start making crucial choices.

“With the right partners, they are poised to take big steps forward in their infrastructure management and savings,” the official concluded.

– CAJ News








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