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M2M technology can address SA water crisis

M2M technology can address SA water crisis

Sep 23, 2013

With a water shortage predicted by 2020, South Africa’s water crisis has been further exacerbated by challenges such as leaking pipes, ageing infrastructure and poor municipal administration, resulting in billions of rands worth public funds being wasted annually.

Earlier this year, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa revealed that a quarter of this water was being lost because of leaking water systems.

According to a survey conducted by the Department of Water Affairs that looked at the long-term water requirements for all the municipalities, 30% of towns in South Africa are currently running at a water deficit.

The minister has also warned that a water shortage is a reality by 2020 if South Africans do not work together to conserve this precious commodity.

WRP Consulting Engineers (WRP), a global leader in the field of water engineering, with a special focus on water conservation and water-loss management, has responded to the leakage issues by launching a remote, web-based, automatic, meter-reading solution for large water users.

It was unveiled at this year’s African Water Leakage Summit. Sanctioned by the International Water Association and jointly organised by the Department of Water Affairs and the Water Research Commission, the event addresses the importance of water-loss reduction in South Africa and is supported by most of the country’s large metros and organisations involved in the water industry.

The solution offers sophisticated machine-to-machine (M2M) technology that effectively addresses the skills shortage barrier by allowing industrial clients access to daily monitoring and control of their water consumption in terms of flow, pressure and usage.

“We have partnered with XLink Communications to provide the M2M platform, product installation, on-going portal support and maintenance services that enable us to transmit the data from the reader logger attached to the client’s water meter through to a base station, and ultimately to XLink’s Insight, an internet-based data acquisition and display facility,” says Ronnie McKenzie, MD of WRP.

“The resulting product is a unique solution based on our own expertise in water conservation and demand-management together with XLink’s proven track record in seamless M2M communication platforms and support services.

“The solution will tie in with virtually any existing GSM/GPRS logger, although we are working closely with Technolog from the United Kingdom, which has developed the Cello range of loggers widely recognised for their reliability and proven five-year power supply.”

“This M2M water management solution replaces the need for monthly manual meter readings by providing clients with direct access to graphical reporting of their water consumption, as well as early identification of system, infrastructure or water meter problems,” says Grant McGlashan, executive head of new business development at XLink.

“Automated alarm notifications via SMS or e-mail alert the client to system defects, such as leaks or meter-reading errors, which can be then be addressed immediately.”

Rollout of this M2M solution is expected to play a crucial role in helping the industrial, agricultural, mining and mixed-tenant commercial sectors to improve their water consumption and management. In this way WRP’s solution will also play a pivotal role in addressing South Africa’s water crisis.

About the WRP/XLink pilot project

A pilot phase designed to test the product and reliability of the equipment was introduced several years ago and has proven highly successful.

Various installations have been commissioned throughout the country, including municipalities and large industries. The results are provided to the customer via the Internet and can be accessed on any PC, smartphone or tablet device.

Typical problems identified include inaccurate or broken water meters, on-site leaks, unexpected pressure variations and even hidden connections, all of which contribute to water loss in one way or another.

The benefits from the system are often underestimated and even a small leak of only two cubic metres an hour will result in an additional R17 000 each month to the customer’s water bill.

Many leaks were identified on the customer’s premises; in one case, the cost of water lost due to a leak was over R6-million over a period of three years. Generally, however, a leakage is much smaller, but can typically cost a medium- to large-size industrial customer between R20 000 and R50 000 per annum.

In the case of Distell in Wadeville, Germiston, the system was employed on their main water meters and immediately indicated a possible leak somewhere on the internal pipe-work within the warehousing facility. Distell quickly investigated the problem and found a leak of almost two cubic metres per hour under a concrete slab which they subsequently repaired.

Without this form of realtime monitoring a leakage of this kind is often overlooked and can run for months if not years. As water becomes more expensive and scarce throughout South Africa, the need to implement continuous monitoring and evaluation will increase.

The XLink/WRP solution has been specifically designed to assist customers with monitoring water consumption and identifying problems as soon as they occur, thus reducing wastage.

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