SMART TECHNOLOGY: INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS TO MANAGE WATER SUPPLY & DEMAND
Edwin Sibiya Managing Director at Lesira-Teq.
Of the rapid population growth in South Africa as evidenced by the last three official censuses has put tremendous pressure on our water supply as well as the resources it takes to extract and transport water.
This reality calls for increased efficiency in water management systems.
This is particularly urgent in the agricultural sector, which accounts for a significant proportion of all freshwater withdrawals in South Africa and is allocated the largest portion of South Africa’s available fresh water - with about 63% going to irrigation. This is sobering when it is considered that only 12% of South Africa’s land is considered arable and only 3% "truly fertile".
These facts and figures stare us stubbornly in the face and are hard to ignore. In this context, water management system and technology manufacturers as well as water authorities and municipalities are faced with a task of monumental proportions to accelerate the implementation of viable solutions. Measurement is, therefore, a key prerequisite in this regard
The lack of proper measurement and monitoring of farmers’ water use is highlighted by AgriSA natural resources director Nic Opperman “South Africa needs to manage and measure water use, and we need to make it compulsory ... We have been waiting for those regulations for years."
Passing legislation takes time. What is required in the meantime is to adopt solutions that can contribute towards mitigating the crisis. Therefore, in the absence of legislation or regulations; Smart Meter Technology and solutions have a pivotal role to play. Smart metering can be defined as technology that collects intelligent data at the metering point. It allows water authorities and municipalities the ability to oversee and manage the delivery as well as usage of resources more effectively and efficiently. It also allows them to provide advanced knowledge of water usage to their customers and build incentive tariffs where possible. The end-users thus benefit in that they are ensured data integrity and are able to monitor and manage their water use smartly and at the palm of their hand.
Water management is at the core of sustainable development. Investing in smart and innovative water metering programmes and technologies would demonstrate commitment to educating consumers about their water consumption as well as inspire changes in their behavior, while keeping water costs affordable. It is advisable that Municipalities take a step towards adapting to new technologies to ensure sustainable delivery of this critical resource and service to not only the farmers but the masses too.
Today, smart metering technologies can make it possible for municipalities to achieve a lot more than just collecting revenue. Using Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) and advanced functionalities can help them to significantly improve the quality of service, increase their cost efficiency associated with water provision and most importantly conserve the national resource by detecting and stopping leaks early. In concurrence, the Chairman of the 2030 Water Resources Group and former CEO of the Nestle Group Peter Brabeck-Letmathe says “If you want to save water, you must measure its consumption. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”.
Only what is measured can be managed. This might sound like a cliché, but it remains one that is true. South Africa is the 30th driest country worldwide and water is a critical element to sustainable socio-economic development and the eradication of poverty and should thus be at the core of our economy in the context of sustainable development and eradicating poverty.
Smart Meter technology in water management is the first step towards achieving control of water consumption.