With the extreme weather conditions South Africa currently faces, the value for efficient water management can not be emphasised enough. How can the implementation of Water Demand Management solutions aid in times of drought?

The traditional approach to water supply and storm water infrastructure focuses on the development of more supply, based on a presumed need for new infrastructure. New infrastructure includes the construction of new dams, reservoirs, tanks, reticulation systems and major water transfer schemes. These engineering solutions have been effective for a period of time. However, the need has arisen for an alternative approach, as supply-sided solutions only postpone the inevitable.

Water Demand Management (WDM) is an alternative approach where the fundamental outcome is to reduce the need for new supply infrastructure through a range of measures including:

Conservation-based tariff structures

Effective water loss management

Recycling wastewater

Creating awareness

While municipalities across the globe increasingly apply systematic approaches to water management through WDM, a key obstacle in the WDM process remains data. In order to optimise efficient and effective delivery of water to consumers at an affordable cost, accurate information (data) about water distribution and consumption is critical.

Problems related to capturing and consolidating data in the WDM process can result in:

Poor infrastructural planning

Inadequate service delivery

Poor management of water infrastructure and resources

Inefficient utilisation of water

Data-Related Obstacles in the Water Demand Management Process

The first phase in the WDM process involves the collection and verification of data. This may include bulk meter readings within distribution systems, wastewater flows, rainfall figures, information from previous leakages, system daily flow patterns and identifying information gaps .

In IMQS’s experience treasury systems are not designed to produce information and statistical reports required by managerial and operational staff responsible for WDM. Furthermore, data is generally not spatially referenced, which would allow links to cadastral database applications in GIS. Obtaining relevant information therefore tends to involve an inefficient process of firstly extracting information from databases and secondly using additional tools to manipulate data and perform statistical calculations. Although the calculations needed to produce the information are theoretically simple, the volume of data that is involved makes it difficult to use spreadsheets. Even in relatively small towns, where there are less than 15 000 stands, it has been found that spreadsheets become prohibitively inefficient and clumsy.

Strategies based on inaccurate consumption and financial information ultimately become a key risk for developing sustainable and holistic WDM plans.

Can Software Solutions Help?

The last two decades have seen rapid advances in technology and information exchange. This has progressively facilitated data collection. The value of this data, however, depends on how it is managed. Carefully managed information is power and can provide actionable information for utilities to strategise and improve performance. In order to reap the benefits of data collection, information must therefore be organised and integrated.

Various software solutions have been developed to optimise efficient and effective delivery of water to consumers at an affordable cost. The fundamental information required to analyse water demand and consumption comes from Municipal Treasury Databases (or similar sources of data) where monthly meter readings are stored along with stand-related information.

By using WDM software solutions, public and private organisations are empowered to consistently improve service delivery to their clients. When the right people are equipped with the relevant information, planning and operational processes can function at optimal levels.

The spatial integration of data allows for a better understanding of the distribution and location of various factors pertaining to water demand and consumption within municipal boundaries. Software solutions therefore enable municipalities to start building a strategic pro-active approach to Water Demand Management and thereby start playing a more responsible role in the management of water as a scarce resource.