Peter Flower
Director of water & sanitation, Peter Flower

“One challenge we foresee is that the relatively cheap price of water may have to escalate above inflation to enable the growing and ageing infrastructure system to be maintained and expanded for city growth.”

Interview with Jaco de Bruyn, Civil Engineer and Acting Manager: Water Demand Management & Strategy, Water & Sanitation Department, Durbanville Municipal Office of the City of Cape Town (CCT). During the water track at African Utility Week’s conference in Cape Town in May, the City’s director of Water & Sanitation, Peter Flower, will address the audience on the City’s water and sanitation management and he will be a panellist at the discussion on “Securing the future of water resources”.

1. Could you tell us more about the link between the water sector and business in Cape Town – and why it is so important to have the right skills and training to further trade and investment?
The link between business and the water department is that they are individual customers of ours. We provide them with water and sanitation services. There are various controls, named by-laws, in place that are regulated. Industrial discharge content is measured in order to prevent pollution or damage to our pipelines. Significant tariffs and surcharges are payable when the limits are exceeded or a polluter is identified. Our Water Pollution Control inspectors have most regular contact with the operators of businesses that discharge industrial effluent (sewage). Some notable cooperation has happened with business to promote Water Conservation initiatives.
2. Tell us more about the latest technology being used in the water sector.
There are a great number of technologies being used in the water sector. The following examples are an indication of what is being used at CCT, however the list is not extensive: Valve turning machines, Jetvac pipe cleaning, CCTV pipeline inspections, real loss detection and analysis via night-flow measurement, zone delineation, automated meter readings, management devices that control flow per day to a set value, hydraulic computer models that analyse capacity in the network and help us identify where future upgrades are required, automation and control of plants and pump stations, pump station tripping alarms, vehicle tracking and routing.

3. What are your biggest water and sanitation challenges affecting business and industry in CCT at the moment?
From our side there are no challenges with water and sanitation for business. We provide these services everywhere in the city, with very high water quality and without interruption of supply. One challenge we foresee is that the relatively cheap price of water may have to escalate above inflation to enable the growing and ageing infrastructure system to be maintained and expanded for city growth.

4. How does sanitation/water treatment apply to business and industry in CCT?
These are two vital customer categories CCT supplies and they are essential to the economic growth of the City. They are supplied with one or more water and sewer connections to their site, as are the vast majority of formally registered properties in the City. The networks, supply zones and treatment facilities for water and sanitation are designed and sized to supply the flow capacity and pressure the businesses need. There are water demand, water quality controls and good practice imposed by By-law and enforced by inspectors. This limits or prevents water wastage and discharges that pollute the environment or erode the downstream infrastructure.

5. How much of the water sector currently resides under the label of renewable energy?
The Steenbras Hydroelectric scheme near Gordon’s Bay generates its own electricity. The use of Methane gas from sludge waste is currently being investigated. There are not many other opportunities that exist at the moment.

6. How big is the business of water treatment in CCT; is it leaning more towards public or private sector?
It is a very big undertaking, being operated as a self-funded trading service and only receiving an inadequate grant from National Government to assist with providing free basic services to the indigent. The operating budget of the department is ZAR R6.322 billion per annum with a staff complement, if contract staff are excluded, of around 3 900 employees.

7. Who are your main stakeholders in (or affecting) the water sector in CCT?
The community in CCT consist of all its people, business and organisations. Everyone needs water as well as a safe, dignified sanitation service on a daily basis in order to survive.

8. What are you doing to address the lack of experience in the water sector in CCT?
CCT strongly focus on appointing qualified staff while retaining experienced and qualified staff, ensuring skills are transferred and new staff are mentored. Interns, bursaries and trainees are employed for contract periods, as well as several thousand Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) short-term employees, where obtaining skills is an essential component.

9. How important is the sustainable use of water resources in South Africa; could the eventual depletion thereof truly be a possibility?
CCT and the entire South Africa are water-scarce. Failing to introduce and maintain water demand countrywide as it has successfully been done in CCT and if the water and sanitation services (which is essentially engineering based) are not managed by qualified and experienced staff, the introduction of further future water sources or resources to meet an unrestricted demand will become increasing expensive or even unaffordable within a lifetime.