“The Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality has adopted a 10-year Water Demand Management Strategy, comprising of dorothyprogrammes to effectively address, separately, technical and non-technical water losses”

Exclusive interview with Dorothy Batenegi Mabuza, Divisional Head: Water Revenue Management Water & Sanitation Department, Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality and speaker on “The evolution of water metering technology and the selection process” at the upcoming African Utility Week in Cape Town in May.

 1. Tell us more about your organisation and your activities in the utility industry?

The Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality was formed as result of nine amalgamated towns, with various independent norms, standards, procedures, guidelines and policies. The incorporation of towns saw the consolidation of all different aspects and practices for the purposes of a single Metro. The Water and Sanitation department evolved through the various tried and tested institutional arrangements, such as, being combined with Roads and Stormwater through to being combined with the Electricity Department. Ultimately the department is a stand-alone, independent from other institutional functions. It is currently, as per the Water Services Act classified as a Water Services Authority and to a certain extent, a Water Services Provider, which, admittedly is contradictory with the Act.

The EMM is located within the Vaal River System and therefore, its bulk water supply is derived from Rand Water, at a set and promulgated tariff rate. Erwat, a registered section 21 company, is a subsidiary of the EMM and is contractually tasked with the EMM’s bulk sewer treatment, at a set and promulgated tariff rate. Both water and sewer tariff rates are calculated through a developed model, taking into cognisance, all related components accounting for a unit cost of the services. Increases hereof (of tariffs) are determined as per proposed tariff rates by TCTA and then Rand Water (for water) and Erwat (for sewer) and the growth rate as published by the National Treasury. Currently, the main drivers for water tariffs increases are the AMD treatment and the LHWP 1 & 2 and other related cost components.

The municipality is therefore mandated to distribute portable water as purchased from Rand Water to end users within its area of supply, including cross boundary, i.e. Joburg.

2. Any specific project updates/success stories that you can share?

Rand Water extraction quotas from the Vaal Barrage are seemingly close to being at their limits and further extensions are discouraged or not approved by the National Department of Water and Sanitation. It is for this reason that Municipalities within the Vaal River Barrage are encouraged to rigorously reduce their demand though the implementation of various water demand management strategies. This includes water loss eradication programmes and the introduction of a drought tariff within its tariff structure. This has been anticipated throughout the years, at least 6 years ago. It is for this reason that the Municipality has adopted a 10 year Water Demand Management Strategy, comprising of programmes to effectively address, separately, technical and non-technical water losses. The strategy comprises of:

  1. Pipeline and Valve Assessment and Replacement
  2. Replacement of Mid-block Pipelines
  3. Pro-Active Leak Detection and Repairs
  4. Cathodic Protection of Steel Pipelines
  5. Sectorization of Distribution Areas
  6. Telemetry System
  7. Indigent Properties Leak Fixing
  8. Leak Fixing & Meter Installation Project in Tsakane/ Langaville/ Geluksdal (43 000 stands)
  9. Metering of all Informal Settlements
  10. Pressure Management
  11. Metering of all Unmetered Properties
  12. Replacement of all aged Domestic Water Meters
  13. Consolidation & Replacement of all Large Water Consumer Meters
  14. Integration of information, finance and complaints systems
  15. Development and Implementation of a Communication, Awareness and Education Programme
  16. Periodic review of Water Tariffs as an instrument to reduce Non-Revenue Water
  17. Training
  18. Document and Information Management System
  19. Risk Register: Monitoring and Mitigation Plan
  20. “War on Leaks” Rapid Responses
  21. Installation, Replacement & Maintenance of Water Meters

3. Progress on the programme is recorded as follows:

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4. The following projects within this programme have so far yielded anticipated results:

  1. Replacement of all aged Domestic Water Meters + Metering of unmetered properties
  • Reduced NRW (for billing): 164 051kl
  1. Consolidation & Replacement of all Large Water Consumer Meters
  • Increased Revenue and savings on consumption
  • R96m/annum & R965m over a ten year period. Consumptions savings were recorded as follows: Prior AADD = 8 660 Kl / day. Post AADD= 10 055 Kl /day. Increased volume billed =1 395 Kl/day =16.1% increase in volume metered/sold.
  1. Indigent Properties Leak Fixing
  • Savings on consumed volumes/ technical losses (from 38% to 31% in 12 months)
  1. Metering of all Informal Settlements

Reduced NRW: by 0.5% (Revenue billed from the equitable share allocation)

5. What in your view are the main challenges currently to the WATER industry in Africa?

Cities across the globe are moving towards a digital and “smart city” route. Smart metering is presumed to be well in support of this strategic direction. However, a challenge exists in the Water sector in terms of the maturity of these instruments, including their testing. The pricing hereof v/s the operational and design life of the metering instruments v/s the cost of water is such that break-even or payback is not easily attainable. There is however, room for more innovation until a point whereby the Water sector is at least at par with the Energy sector.

6. What is your vision for this industry?

Within the SA context, the creation of enabling platforms and environments so as to produce more skilled, committed and dedicated professionals who shall carry the sector forward in terms of required innovation and sector excellence.

7. You are part of the conference programme at this year’s African Utility Week in May, what will be your message?

Let the environments within where we are operating be the drivers of our course as professionals. We should strive for more intrinsic and extensive efficiencies in the space within which we are operating.

8. What are you most looking forward to at African Utility Week?

Networking with industry professionals and gaining more insight for the benefit of the sector in my area of operation.

9. Anything you would like to add?

Africa as a continent has exquisite natural water courses and resources which only require us as professionals to protect from any pollution and depletion. It is not too late to engage, to research and to conserve these for future generation. This shall possibly delay the development of costly water schemes by decades!