Exclusive interview with Klaus Gruebl, Sensus country manager in South Africa. Sensus is a returning gold sponsor at this year’s African Utility Week

“If current development trends in South Africa continue we will have a 2.7 billion m³ water deficit in 2030”

Let’s start with a look at 2015 for Sensus in South Africa, any particular highlights for you?

The particular highlight in 2015 was the growth in smart water solutions. Sensus South Africa profited from the synergies of three million Sensus iPERL smart water meters worldwide. Beside walk-by/drive-by metering solutions, we also rolled out fixed radio network solutions. There are iPERL field trials with some of the biggest water utilities in South Africa with promising results. About the opportunities – we are very optimistic. The system with fixed radio network provides real time information to municipalities. This will help to win the war on leaks.

And in the region?

Sensus South Africa looks after Southern and East Africa. The other African regions are served by our sister companies in Morocco, Algeria and France.

In Namibia, we successfully rolled out the iPERL system. This was after a short but very successful field trial. Leaks could be detected and the excellent flow performance reduced the non-revenue water (NRW) significantly. Meter exchange programmes are on the way and we are looking forward to grow the market for the iPERL system.

In Tanzania, Botswana and Zambia we have positive discussions about smart water solutions. To serve the growing population with water is one of the main challenges for the future. Sensus is global company with an experience of more than 150 years providing solutions to the water industry. Together with the utility we are able to tailor the right solution for them.

What projects were you involved in that you can share?

We are in discussion with different utilities they want to move away from dumb meters towards smart endpoints. It is about electricity meters, water meters and other measuring equipment. iPERL and Sensus FlexNet long range fixed radio solutions enables the industry to manage their water respectively their energy network. In the US, our biggest market for smart solutions, we have installed some 16 million smart endpoints, which are automatically monitored and controlled. This knowledge and experience we bring into the discussions.

South Africa is experiencing a severe drought at the moment, how can technology help the country deal with this better?

South Africa is currently facing the worst drought in 30 years. The water loss we have in South Africa is around 38%, representing a loss in revenue for the utilities of some ZAR 7-billion per annum. With smart meter technology and a robust management system, utilities will be able to optimise their network and we are sure to reduce the water loss by up to 20%. Imagine what financial impact this would have.

What is your vision for the water sector in Africa?

If current development trends in South Africa continue, we will have a 2.7 billion m³ water deficit in 2030. This means we will need 20% more water than the 13.5 billion m³ used today. If the drought [conditions] continues, the challenges to manage this demand will be extreme. These pressures, not only on water resources, but also on energy resources will open the door for new technologies. Smart grid solutions are required to cope with these challenges in the future – and we already see the market going into this direction. Sensus is in a position to assist utilities in their strategy and efforts to improve their networks to make them smart.

Sensus is a longstanding partner of African Utility Week – how important is this event on the water calendar?

The African Utility Week is for us the opportunity for information exchange with other utility suppliers. I am very interested to discuss with delegates from the different utilities their challenges and strategies. By having a better understanding of their requirements, we are able to provide them with the solution they need.

What will be your message at the event in 2016?

Let us fight the challenges of tomorrow with the technology of tomorrow.