Category Archives: General Water Sector News from Africa

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SABS willing to help municipalities design portable toilet specifications

The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) on Monday said it was able and willing to help municipalities design a set of specific requirements for the efficient functioning of portable toilets, chemical or otherwise.

This comes as some municipalities are facing challenges in managing chemical toilets.

The SABS emphasised that the importance of specifications was that testing or verification services could be done against those criteria.

Currently, there is no specific South African National Standard that details the use of chemicals in portable toilets; however, there are several standards, based on international standards, that could be consulted for the development of specific requirements for portable chemical toilets.

The SABS indicated that it had the largest suite of testing laboratories in South Africa and could offer a customised, multidisciplinary testing service to ensure mechanical, chemical, electrical and other elements are supplied according to a stringent set of specifications.

“A safe functioning toilet is required for its impact on public health, human dignity and personal safety, especially for women and children,” the organisation emphasised.

“In South Africa, the eradication of pit toilets and the provision of safe, functioning and efficient toilet systems are required.

“The SABS is integral to ensure that South Africans benefit from standardisation and the assurance from having products tested,” it stated.

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Massive upgrade under way at Zandvliet Wastewater Treatment Works in Cape Town

The R1.7-billion upgrade of the Zandvliet Wastewater Treatment Works (WwTWs) is set to unlock development in one of the fastest growing catchments in Cape Town, the city said on Sunday.

The Zandvliet WwTWs treats effluent from the southern parts of Kuils River, Delft, Blackheath, Blackheath Industria, Blue Downs, Eerste River, De Wijnlanden, Thembokwezi, Mxolisi Phetani and Khayelitsha.

In its current form, the WwTWs had the capability to handle 72-million litres of wastewater per day. Upon completion of the massive upgrade project, the plant would be able to process an additional 18-million litres per day, bringing the total capacity to 90-million litres per day, the city said in a statement.

This significant increase would foster investment in the area, as it would have the capability of safely catering for housing developments, schools, commercial developments and, by association, job opportunities.

In addition to the increased capacity, a new preliminary treatment process and upgrade of the existing treatment modules would ensure that the quality of the treated effluent being discharged was of an acceptable standard and complied with the license conditions issued by the national department of water and sanitation, the statement said.

“The treatment processes applied at the facility, being biological activated sludge processes, are considered best practice for municipal wastewater treatment. Additionally, the existing membrane bioreactor module, which incorporates membrane technology for solid and liquid separation, was the first application of this technology in the municipal sector in South Africa,” mayoral committee member for water and waste Xanthea Limberg said in the statement.

“The City of Cape Town is among the highest performers nationwide, in terms of treated effluent being discharged from WwTWs within the standards required by the regulator. Additionally, the plants operate in accordance with ISO standards,” she said.

The current scope of work would see the construction of a membrane bioreactor, sludge dewatering facilities, new inlet works, pump stations, primary settling tanks, and disinfection facilities.

“Visiting the site and witnessing the staggering scale of the project really drove home how much work has been done thus far, and how much still lies ahead in this mammoth upgrade of the Zandvliet WwTWs. The city is committed to ensuring that it continues to evolve its processes to manage waste and to ensure that it does everything in its power to put in place enhanced processes for sustainable urban management,” Limberg said.

Rapid population growth and changing wastewater characteristics over the years had placed a huge strain on existing wastewater treatment processes. As such, the city considered upgrades of several wastewater treatment plants a priority, and had over R9-billion worth of upgrades to WwTWs either under way, or at some stage of the procurement process.

The commissioning of the new plant was anticipated to be by December 2023. Soon thereafter, further expansion would be implemented to cater for continuing urban growth in the area. The existing plant would continue to operate and treat wastewater throughout this period.

“The city is immensely pleased that construction work is now well under way at the Zandvliet Wastewater Treatment Works. The project has been beset by various delays since 2010, including five (unsuccessful) tender appeals, a High Court appeal, and a land claim. Now that these have been resolved and boots are on the ground, it’s all systems go to adequately cater for one of the fastest growing catchments in the city,” Limberg said.

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Calculator to estimate daily water use

With South Africa classified as a water-stressed country, owing to its receiving an average of about 492 mm/y of rainfall, water utility Rand Water’s environmental brand Water Wise’s water calculator provides users with an estimate of how much water is used in daily activities.

Water Wise researcher Samanta Stelli notes that the calculator will soon be live on Rand Water’s website.

She notes that, based on market research conducted from 2008 to 2016 through surveys, most people are not aware of their actual water use. To create awareness around water use, the calculator was developed to help individuals understand their water consumption, she adds.

“The calculator poses a set of questions such as how many times a day do you wash your hands, how many times a day do you flush the toilet and whether you have a swimming pool.”

After all the questions are completed, the calculator shows how much water is being consumed daily in kilolitres and litres, the percentage of water that is being used on every activity in the form of a chart and how much water is consumed in a month, as well as the monthly cost, which is based on the average for Johannesburg, Gauteng.

“The results help you to understand your municipal account, identify where water is being used and pinpoint high water-use activities to help households reduce water consumption.”

Stelli highlights that the calculator should not be used to determine exact water use, but rather as a measuring tool to create awareness regarding wasteful water use and how to reduce your water use.

Water Wise research coordinator Meagan Donnelly says the company will also soon start a pilot study using the calculator involving 250 participants from a specific municipality over a six-month period.

“During this study, participants will be encouraged to use the calculator once a month and compare the results with those on their actual municipal account, and refine the validity and accuracy of the calculator.”

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Water-crisis conditions hold serious implications and challenges

Integrated infrastructure delivery company AECOM senior engineer Hanine van Deventer stresses that, when a severe multiyear drought, coupled with difficult water-management parameters, is experienced, such as was the case in the Western Cape from 2015 to 2018, water-crisis conditions hold serious implications and challenges for everyone concerned.

She adds that Cape Town was faced with a dire situation when it was announced that the municipal water supply could be cut off owing to dwindling supply. However, since then, dam levels in the Western Cape have recovered significantly. While that has led to the relaxation of water restrictions, it does not entirely reassure the private sector of uninterrupted municipal water supply.

“Private-sector companies are seldom knowledgeable or equipped to deal with water-crisis interventions on a regular basis, possibly leading to an unwitting and/or hasty approach to implementing solutions.”

When faced with the daunting task of implementing infrastructure to combat an unprecedented event such as the threatened ‘Day Zero’, stakeholders can often over-, or worse, underestimate the level of intervention required, she says.

The draft Cape Town Water Strategy, published in January 2019, states: “The future is uncertain, and the cost of very severe restrictions is much higher than the cost of insuring against this likelihood by providing additional water-supply capacity.” Hence, water resilience is key.

South Africa is classified as a water-scarce country, with some projections estimating that, at present, it exploits roughly 98% of its available water-supply resources. In many areas, the water challenge is looming ever larger, notes Van Deventer.

“The ability of all stakeholders to respond wisely, lawfully and fairly in such a crisis becomes a daunting and complex minefield, especially to enterprises not knowledgeable of the requirements.”

This is where AECOM’s expertise is vital, ranging from risk assessment to mitigation of identified risks and assurance of sustainability, she adds.

During the Cape Town crisis, AECOM was approached by various private companies to provide professional services that would improve their resilience in response to water-supply interruptions, says Van Deventer.

This was driven largely by commercial interests such as loss of revenue, liability concerns in terms of safety and insurance requirements. Other drivers were the long-term goals of reduced utility costs or ultimate independence from the municipal water supply.

“Some clients noticed the impending crisis, requested budgets, and engaged early. Some were more structured, but many left these interventions too late, and were required to respond to all these critical concerns simulaneously to manage the immediate and evident crisis,” she points out.

The emergency solutions and mitigations ranged from fairly innovative to more radical measures that were “sometimes inadequate, high-risk and beyond the legislative framework”. Water-saving initiatives included replacement of conventional sanitary fittings with water-saving technology. Here the problem is not only understanding what this technology actually is, but what it can achieve, Van Deventer says.

She states that companies also looked at various other methods to save water and/or reduce water use, including altering air-conditioning systems, introducing dual-plumbing water systems and the addition of fire extinguishers to supplement water-suppression. Supplementary water sources were also investigated. These included rain- and grey-water harvesting, reclaimed groundwater harvesting – collection of seepage groundwater or borehole water – blackwater and greywater treatment, potable water tanker supply and use of bottled drinking water.

She adds that the options of encouraging employees to work from home to avoid business disruption and supplying them with imported water instead of having to queue during working hours, thus alleviating the inconvenience, were also considered.

Van Deventer refers to a recent paper written by herself, AECOM associate engineer Kondrad Kohrs and AECOM candidate civil engineer Belinda Herbst, titled ‘Improving Our State of Water Resilience: A Private Sector Perspective’ in which the authors warn that, “water is a precious commodity that needs to be managed wisely to serve the ever-growing population and promote economic growth”.

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Infrastructure backlog provides growth opportunities for company

There is a backlog of sufficient planned new bulk water infrastructure projects in South Africa which could potentially provide increased opportunities for engineering consultants, such as AECOM, to become involved in more infrastructure development, says AECOM water business line director Werner Comrie.

“Many of the new identified large projects have been delayed for implementation and municipalities are also battling to provide water services. There is also a crisis in ageing infrastructure, which requires maintenance, refurbishment or replacing.”

This includes large dams, hydropower development, water and wastewater treatment, water conveyance and distribution, stormwater management and water resilience.

“The opportunities for growth are there, with the backlog described in the National Water and Sanitation Masterplan developed by the Department of Water and Sanitation last year. These plans need action to implement,” he states.

Comrie indicates AECOM’s typical expertise in water infrastructure design, supervision and project management with reference to its involvement as engineer for the City of Tshwane’s Temba Water Treatment Works in Soshanguve, Pretoria.

“This project is in the commissioning phase and will make a major contribution to improving the quality of the drinking water in the far northern part of the city,” he outlines.

AECOM is also the engineer for the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority for the development of the Polihali western access road. The road will provide access to the Polihali dam construction site, which forms part of the second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water project.

Construction of this road will start in the second half of this year.

AECOM is further involved in various projects in dams, wastewater treatment, industrial water use, water supply and stormwater management across South Africa and the rest of the continent.

The needs and demands are there and the backlog on infrastructure is growing. This amplifies the requirement for funding, efficient decision-making, streamlined procurement processes and quality engineering, asserts Comrie.

“If all the national and master planning that has been done is programmed for execution, there will be a lot to do. “We remain positive that this will be the case and are pleased to see that infrastructure development is being prioritised as a primary driver of job creation and economic growth,” he states.

Comrie continues by adding that, when the industry recovers, the opportunities for transformation will be endless. “Recruitment could then be focused on targeting the designated groups for employment and development. If the industry remains suppressed, we cannot make the progress we need to. Unfortunately that is one of the main reasons why the consultancy industry has battled to show sufficient progress on transformation during recent years. “Lack of projects restricts the potential to provide jobs to qualifying young professionals, and to build the capability of the industry to meet anticipated demand amid the future economic growth in the country.”

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South Africa water supply not keeping up with developments

There are potential mining zones – in coal, platinum and chrome, for instance – in the northern parts of provinces like Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga. In many of these, growth has in fact already taken place – but water supply is not keeping up, says consulting firm SRK Consulting partner and principal hydrologist Peter Shepherd.

“South Africa wants economic growth, but without reliable water supply, this is a pipe dream. Wherever there is a business and people, we need water to sustain them.”

The country has reached the point where the availability of water in new development zones can no longer be guaranteed, warns Shepherd. Much of South Africa’s future economic development will take place in areas where water has traditionally not been plentifully supplied.

“Expanding our agricultural sector will mean facing the same constraints. Our burgeoning cities and towns demand an increasing share of the limited national water resources, increasingly competing with industry. “Already, there are many municipalities unable to foster local economic development, owing to their lack of ability to provide a reliable supply of water.”

Meanwhile, he notes that recent news on the long-awaited expansion of the Lesotho Highlands Water Scheme is heartening. “This will hopefully ensure a measure of certainty in meeting the future requirements of Gauteng, the country’s economic heartland.” However, this will not be sufficient as it will not be able to supply beyond Gauteng – into the Olifants and Limpopo catchments.

Shepherd notes that there will have to be more water sourced for these areas and that more efforts should be made to conserve water. “In agriculture, water-saving techniques like drip irrigation instead of overhead sprinklers will become more common. Such trends have already had considerable impact in applications like KwaZulu-Natal’s sugar cane segment.”

Further, mines has been proactive for some time in reducing, reusing and recycling water, he says. The sector has also been part of pioneering partnerships that could hold the key to the looming water constraints described above.

Shepherd adds that a good example of this model was the R195-million Lebalelo water-supply scheme, commissioned in Limpopo in 2002. The scheme was to supply 84 000 kℓ of raw water a day from the Olifants river to farms and mines making up the Lebalelo Water User Association (LWUA). Five dams were built, the largest being the 537-million-litre Havercroft dam.

“Made possible by investment from the private sector, the scheme also facilitated access to water by communities in the area.”

He notes that after 15 years, the LWUA was successfully disestablished and the facilities incorporated into Lepelle Northern Water, the State-owned water utility based in Polokwane. “This model will need to be rolled out in other water-scarce areas where economic potential for development and job creation exist.”

Importantly, water provision must include not only those who can pay upfront for the infrastructure; any public–private partnership will have to consult effectively with communities – and ensure that these communities are not excluded when water starts to flow, says Shepherd.

Additionally, he adds that government policies – along with the political will and the departmental expertise – are cornerstones of such partnerships. “Long planning timelines are required, perhaps up to a decade or more. In the short term, groundwater will be a focus of water supply efforts – but the availability of these resources will vary with climate and rainfall.”

He concludes that, in the long run, we may need to be more ambitious, raising our horizons to look north into neighbouring countries and beyond. “The thought of piping water from the Zambezi river may today seem like a fantasy, but may in time enter the frame of options. “It will certainly need visionary commitment, close collaboration among many stakeholders across transnational boundaries, disciplined planning and multidisciplinary expertise and experience.”

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Thames Water appoints SA analytics firm to monitor sewer headroom

Local data science consulting company Explore-AI has been appointed by Thames Water, in the UK, to help deliver data analytics solutions for the UK’s largest water utility, says Explore-AI CEO Shaun Dippnall.

The project involves building data science solutions to assist the utility in managing its water network more effectively. The utility will use this technology and information to also generate insights, determine appropriate responses and boost customer service, adds Thames Water chief digital officer John Beaumont.

The growth in low-cost sensors and devices allows for data to be collected from anywhere in the water delivery system.

“These low-cost sensors enable Thames Water to measure headroom in a sewer. Depending on the geometry of a sewer, there is a minimum headroom space required to avoid a blockage, flood or pollution. If we can detect abnormalities in the headroom levels digitally, we can deal with potential problems far [more quickly] than we could previously,” he adds.

Explore-AI will apply data analytics insights and analytical tools to this data stream, says Dippnall.

Thames Water supplies more than 15-million customers within London and the greater Thames region with 2 600 Mℓ of drinking water a day, and treats about 4 400 Mℓ of wastewater a day, says Beaumont.

Evolutions in technology enable Thames Water to digitalise its business in ways not previously possible and unprecedented in the past 50 years.

Meanwhile, it is not the first time that Explore-AI has used its data science tools to gain insight into water use. One of the first projects for learners in Explore-AI’s parent company, Explore Data Science Academy, was to analyse water demand and supply figures in Cape Town at the height of the recent drought crisis. Explore-AI is the consulting arm of the academy, says Explore Data Science Academy cofounder Aidan Helmbold.

The academy launched its accredited skills data science programme with 100 learners in 2018, in Cape Town, sponsored by information and communications technology company BCX. Since then, the Academy has opened a Gauteng campus with an additional 350 data science and data analytics learners.

The global shortage of data science and analytics skills means increased opportunities for international work for the local AI consulting firm, highlights Dippnall.

Explore-AI was also appointed by UK-based insurance group Correlation Risk Partners to apply data science and machine-learning techniques to solve some of the difficult problems across their insurance portfolio. Currently, Explore-AI is working on three projects across the group.

“We have a number of projects under way across Europe. There is a lot of work [for the application of] the latest data science tools and techniques to solve difficult business problems. These projects demonstrate our ability to compete globally and win large contracts,” Dippnall concludes.

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Cape Town still saving water, while dam levels are in ‘recovery’ mode

Water consumption dropped by 15 million litres per day in Cape Town, with continuing rain helping dam levels recover to 59.8%.

“Although the metro dam levels are slowly increasing, we are still in a period of recovery,” cautioned the City’s mayoral committee member for water and waste services, Xanthea Limberg.

“This precious resource has to see us through the next summer until the following winter and hopefully some better rainfall.”

This means that even though consumption was reduced to 555l per day for the last week, the City does not have enough water to relax yet. 

“This an encouraging response to the City urging continued restraint, despite recent rains,” Limberg said of the continued savings. “For this we are appreciative.”  

Water restrictions remain in place to aid dam recovery. 

Dam levels in the province are at an average 45.4 percent. 

The MEC for local government, environmental affairs and development planning, Anton Bredell, said overall more increases were expected in the coming weeks, but he also reiterated the plea to continue to save water.

“We don’t know how much more rain we will get, and we don’t know to what extent our dam levels will improve,” he said. 

WATCH: Theewaterskloof Dam’s 3-year collapse in 60 seconds 

The latest statistics are: 

Voëlvlei Dam  65.1% full this week (2018: 52.2%. Last week: 59.4%);

Bergriver Dam – 89.2% full this week (2018: 82.7%. Last week: 78.2%);

Theewaterskloof Dam  50% full this week (2018: 38.5%. Last week: 44.5%);

Clanwilliam Dam 34.2% this week (2018: 98.2%. Last week: 18.9%). 

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Zimbabwe: Residents Angry As Council Fails to Restore Water After 8 Days

Bulawayo city authorities have failed to meet their four-day grace period promised to residents to restore tap water supplies to households following major refurbishment works at the city’s reservoirs.

The city council announced a crippling four-day water shedding schedule last week starting from Tuesday up to Saturday.

However, a survey carried out by NewZimbabwe.com Tuesday revealed that some suburbs have failed to receive the necessity despite the lapse of the official council water shedding programme.

The most affected suburbs included, Nkulumane, Nketa, Tshabalala, Sizinda and Luveve. These suburbs have gone for almost eight days without running water.

The situation has forced some residents to travel distances of 10km and above to the city centre to find some water while others were buying the liquid at prices ranging from $2 to $5 per a 20 litre container from water vendors.

“The city council should have properly staggered the rehabilitation works so that residents are not affected by water shortages,” said one angry Sizinda resident who preferred to be identified as Seka Moses.

“Imagine, we last received water on Monday last week. We have been relying on the nearby boreholes but all of them now have dried up due to overwork.”

Residents feared the situation could lead to an outbreak in waterborne diseases such as typhoid and cholera.

“Some of us have now stopped using our home toilets because they are now a health hazard,” said one Brenda Ndebele, a Nkulumane resident.

“Chances of experiencing water borne diseases if we do not get water as a matter of urgency are very high considering that a lot of people are now using surrounding bushes during the night to relieve themselves.”

Ambrose Sibindi, who chairs the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA), said council should have consulted extensively with residents before embarking on a tortuous load shedding schedule that has left people stranded.

“I think council could have done more in disseminating information about the water shedding,” Sibindi said.

“It seems a lot of residents were caught unaware and they did not have contingency plans to store enough water to see them through the duration of the refurbishment.”

Town Clerk Christopher Dube attributed the non-availability of water in some suburbs to low pumping pressure.

“Delays should be expected at Criterion and Magwegwe reservoirs as water levels have dropped to 1.25 metres.

“The water treatment capacity at the plant is still very minimal due to on-going works. All areas that did not receive water are scheduled to receive the water in the morning of 9 July 2019,” said Dube.

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Namibia: Govt, Angola Discuss Water Use


Photo: The Namibian

The governments of Namibia and Angola will meet this week to discuss the sustainable use and management of rivers shared by the two countries.

This was announced in a media statement by the executive director of international relations, Selma Ashipala-Musavyi yesterday.

She said the fifth session of the Namibia-Angola Joint Commission of Cooperation will be held between 10 to 14 July 2019 at a local hotel, and will be hosted by international relations minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah and the external relations minister of Angola, Manuel Augusto Domingos.

According to the statement, the two countries will also discuss regional and international problems both countries face.

While tackling problems on shared water usage, the commission will discuss issues such as trade and investment, education, health, environment, tourism, energy, fisheries and cross-border trade because these sectors affect the lives of people in the two countries.

“The fifth session is also taking place against the backdrop of severe drought in the region, with both countries having declared national disaster emergencies,” Ashipala-Musavyi said.

She added that the two countries will strengthen their relationship by establishing a bi-national commission to be co-chaired by their respective presidents.

Ashipala-Musavyi noted that the Cuvelai River Basin Commission (Cuvecom) and Okavango River Basin Water Commission (Okacom) will promote the sustainable development and efficient management of water resources along the common border.

“It is imperative for both countries to cooperate on the sustainable usage and management of our shared water resources, particularly within the framework of the Cuvecom and Okacom,” she said.

There have been public calls for Namibia to draw water from the Okavango River to supply the country’s central region. The Namibian reported in 2016 that NamWater engineering manager Kuiri Tjipangandjara said drawing water from the Okavango River for central Namibia is a more feasible option than desalination.

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