In addition to a possible water shortage predicted by 2020, South Africa’s water problems are being exacerbated by other challenges, such as leaking pipes, ageing infrastructure and poor municipal administration, resulting in billions in public funds being wasted every year, says consulting engineer WRP.
In 2013, South African Water and Environ- mental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said that a quarter of the country’s water was being lost as a result of leaking water systems and if billing and metering losses are included, the figure rises to almost 40%.
According to a survey conducted by the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) on the long-term water requirements for all the munici- palities, 30% of towns in South Africa are functioning with a water deficit. Molewa warned that South Africans needed to work together to conserve this precious commodity.
WRP particularly focuses on water conservation and water-loss management, and has responded to the leakage issues by launching a remote Web-based and automatic meter-reading solution for large water users. It was unveiled at the African Water Leakage Summit in August 2013.
Sanctioned by the International Water Association and jointly organised by the DWA and the Water Research Commission, the summit deals with the importance of water-loss reduction in South Africa and is supported by most of the country’s large metropolitans and organisations involved in the water industry.
WRP and communication solutions company XLink Communications offer advanced machine-to-machine (M2M) technology that effectively addresses the skills-shortage barrier by allowing industrial clients access to the daily monitoring and control of their water consumption in terms of flow, pressure and use.
“We have partnered with technological services provider XLink Communications to provide the M2M platform, product installation, ongoing portal support and maintenance services that enable us to transmit the data from the reader logger, attached to the client’s water meter, to a base station and, ultimately, to XLink’s Insight for m2mconneXion, an Internet-based data acquisition and display facility,” says WRP MD Ronnie McKenzie.
“The resulting product is a unique solution based on our own expertise in water conservation and demand management, and on XLink’s proven record in seamless M2M communication platforms and support services,” he adds.
The solution will tie in with virtually any existing GSM/GPRS logger (global system for mobile communication/general packet radio service logger), although the company is working closely with UK logger manufacturer Technolog, which has developed the Cello range of loggers, widely recognised for their reliability and proven five-year power supply.
“This M2M water management solution provides clients with direct access to the graphical reporting of their water consumption and to the early identification of system, infrastructure or water meter problems. Automated alarm notifications through SMS or email alert the client to system defects, such as leaks or meter-reading errors, which can be then be tackled immediately,” says XLink Communications new business development head Grant McGlashan, who adds that anyone can understand the meter-reading results and that minimal training is required.
Roll-out of this M2M solution is expected to play a crucial role in helping the industrial, agriculture, mining and mixed-tenant commercial sectors to improve their water consumption and management. Subsequently, WRP’s solution will also play a pivotal role in averting a future water crisis.
WRP/XLink Pilot Project
A pilot phase, designed to test the product and the reliability of the equipment, was introduced several years ago in various parts of South Africa and has proven to be highly successful. Various installations have consequently been commissioned by WRP and XLink Communications throughout the country, including at municipali- ties and large industries.
“We have been working closely with the City of Tshwane, the City of Johannesburg, the Ekurhuleni municipality, the Western Cape township of Mfuleni and, to a lesser extent, the City of Cape Town, as well as many other smaller municipali- ties that are taking water losses seriously,” says McKenzie. He adds that the feedback has been positive.
The results are provided for the customer on the Internet and can be accessed using any computer, smartphone or tablet device. Typical problems that are often identified include inaccurate or broken water meters, on-site leaks, unexpected pressure variations and even hidden connections, all of which contribute to water loss.
The benefits of the system are often underestimated as even a small leak of only 2 m3/h will result in an additional R27 000 being added to the customer’s monthly water bill. Many leaks have been identified at the premises of customers that implemented the system and, in one case, the value of water being lost because of a leak amounted to more than R6-million over three years.
“Generally, however, a much smaller leak can typically cost a medium- to large-size industrial customer between R20 000 and R50 000 a year,” says McKenzie.
The system was also implemented at the main water meters of one of South Africa’s large beverage manufacturers in Wadeville, Germiston. It immediately indicated a possible leak on the internal pipework in the warehousing facility. The factory owners found a leak of almost 2 m3/h under a concrete slab, which was subsequently repaired.
“Without this type of real-time monitoring, a leak of this kind is often overlooked and can continue for months, if not years,” says McKenzie. He adds that, as water becomes more expensive and scarce throughout South Africa, the need to implement continuous monitoring and evaluation will increase.
The WRP/XLink solution has been specifically designed to assist customers in monitoring water consumption and identifying problems as soon as they occur, thus reducing waste.
Now in its tenth year, XLink Communications has proven resilience and best practice within the M2M payment space and has received the 2014 South African Frost & Sullivan Award for Technology Leadership. Frost & Sullivan’s Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global markets for demonstrating outstanding achievement and superior performance in areas such as leadership, technological innovation, customer service and strategic product development.
XLink Communications was established in 2004, pioneering GPRS-based electronic funds transfer (EFT) data communication solutions in South Africa and is currently the largest carrier of EFT services across the GSM network. XLink currently manages M2M solutions for over 56 000 businesses in Africa, facilitating 35-million M2M connections through the XLink Portal monthly. Our seamless communication service and products provide businesses with the capability and intelligence to remotely provision, track, maintain and monitor over 125 000 SIM cards and 80 000 units in the field.
XLink has expanded its product range to provide specialist M2M data communication solutions for the retail, fuel, financial, hospitality, entertainment, travel, security, transportation and healthcare sectors.