Exclusive interview with Gerardt P. Viljoen, Systems Executive at Sensus who will address the Water Loss Management session during African Utility Week in Cape Town in May in a presentation entitled: “Use IT or lose it!” Sensus is also a returning gold sponsor at the event.
Please tell us more about your position at Sensus and the kinds of projects that you are involved in?
As you are aware the industry around water management at utilities is rapidly changing. AMR/AMI (Automated Meter Reading/Advanced Metering Infrastructure) are becoming common terms in day to day conversations when discussing water and utility metering.
Sensus has taken up the challenge to offer the tools and expertise to manage and monitor critical resources which involves much more than just measuring and billing. Sensus South Africa agrees that a non revenue water figure of 38% nationally could be drastically reduced if we knew exactly what is taking place in reticulation networks.
It is common knowledge that we are fast getting to a point where the demand for water will outgrow our ability to supply. We do however need to prioritise where to apply resources and focus.
Unless we are willing to invest in technology to assist us in gathering this information and make sense of it, the answer will always be NO, and we WILL have more people without water. I am aiming to bring this message across and provide tried and tested technology solutions to help South Africa prepare for the future.
Any specific project in South Africa/rest of Africa that you are particularly excited about?
We have several field trials currently running in South Africa with some of the largest utilities with really promising results and we hope to build on these going forward. In Africa we are extremely excited about Namibia who has deployed automated metering with great success and are already reaping the rewards in a country with extremely limited water resources.
Not only are we excited about the remote reading capabilities this brings, but also the ability of our iPERL meters to handle poor quality water, including grey water, and provide extremely accurate measurement under virtually all conditions.
You will address the upcoming African Utility Week’s conference water track on “Use IT or lose it!” Can you give us a preview of your message?
I guess it will be more a challenge than a message… I hope to bring perspective to what is required for South-Africa to be ready for the future. Where will we focus efforts and resources? Are we willing to invest money where people need it most? I will be suggesting the use of IT combined with reliable measurement and data transfer systems to achieve this objective.
How worrisome is the water situation in South Africa currently?
This depends on who you ask and what is referred to as the water situation. We currently have the drought to worry about. As you all know the late rains might help but the aftermath of the drought will surely still be felt for a year or so into the future.
We will have to import more food than usual and with the current exchange rate this will put a heavy burden on the consumer with drastic price increases as a direct result.
When looking at water and water supply in general, according to Minister of the Department of Water and Sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane in a recent interview on Jacaranda FM, more than 80% of South-Africans have access to clean safe drinking water. This is good for a developing country.
The problem is how efficient is the reticulation networks being run. I believe that we are reactively managing losses. I am of the opinion that it is time for municipalities to step up and look at how they can pro-actively manage water resources, demand and supplies. Only when making use of the technologies available in AMR/AMI will we be able to build models to assist in doing this.
How can this challenge be overcome?
A serious awareness of the water problems which we are facing, needs to be communicated and emphasized at all levels of society, government, mines, industry, agriculture and NGOs through forums like this conference, the media and even while sitting at dinner with your family.
Every individual who acknowledges that we are facing a national water disaster if we do not turn this ship around, can play some role in conserving the water resources, whether it is through kerbing wastage or pollution, applying technology and innovation, and by taking personal and institutional ownership. We are all in this ship together!
Anything you would like to add?
Good quality, reliable measurement and AMR/AMI comes at a cost. You get what you pay for. Are you willing to invest now so that we do not leave a bad legacy for our children?