Stellenbosch, like other municipalities in the Western Cape, has been hard hit by a prolonged drought. Unlike many of its peers, however, Stellenbosch seems to be sitting on a greener wicket. How has Stellenbosch gone about managing risk, and what has been the main resource in this municipality’s water management arsenal?
If you live in South Africa’s Western Cape, you would be hard-pressed to not have water on the brain. The region has been feeling the full effects of long-term drought. When coupled with population influx and growth, the situation becomes more critical.
MUNICIPALITIES AND WATER RESTRICTIONS AT 30 JANUARY 2018:
City of Cape Town - level 6B water restrictions in effect.
Cape Agulhas - level 6 water restrictions in effect.
Drakenstein Municipality - level 6 water restrictions in effect.
Saldanha Municipality - level 6 water restrictions in effect.
Stellenbosch Municipality - level 5 water restrictions in effect.
Swartland Municipality - level 5 water restrictions in effect.
The City of Cape Town, home to 3 776 000 people, is at the forefront of the struggle to conserve water and make new water sources available for general public consumption. From 1 February, inhabitants of this important metropole will be restricted to 50 litres of water a day per person.
With an inevitable “day zero” close at hand, which will see taps run dry in the Mother City, water resource management has turned into risk and disaster management.
The City of Cape Town’s central focus in the news tends to overshadow actions taken in other municipalities in the affected region. What has been happening in the bounds of Stellenbosch Municipality?
Compared to the City of Cape Town, Stellenbosch Municipality has been relatively successful in keeping a “day zero” at bay. Although its population will be asked to save more water from 1 February 2018, the region’s community has successfully banded together to reduce consumption to 44% compared to a 2015 baseline.
While this reduction has gone a long way in taking pressure off the water distribution system, it has been the efforts of its municipal engineers to source new water resources, distribute that water effectively, and plan accordingly that have contributed to a better future outcome for the municipal region.
Through exploration and planning, financed by a R45 million Drought Management Plan, Stellenbosch Municipality has been able to source a reliable 8 000 KL of purified water per day. With advanced planning in place for an additional 6 000 KL/day, the municipality makes the conservative estimate that around 14 000 KL of purified water will be available per day in February and 18 000 KL/day from 1 April onwards.
The water exploration has entailed drilling over 40 boreholes, of which 15 are strong enough for reliable water. These boreholes will be connected to the main water supply system, significantly decreasing Stellenbosch’s dependence on Cape Town’s sources. In fact, by the end of March 2018, Stellenbosch Municipality aims to take Klapmuts, Franschhoek and Dwarsrivier, (including Pniel, Kylemore, Johannesdal and Languedoc) off the Wemmershoek system and connect them to its own system, freeing up even more water for the Mother City.
How has Stellenbosch been able to accomplish the work thus far?
According to Stellenbosch Water Resource Engineer Adriaan Kurtz, reliable engineering information systems lie at the foundation of Stellenbosch’s ability to mitigate risk.
“I think everything is dependent on the availability of, and access to, information, as well as how you present it,” says Kurtz. “Many people underestimate the value of engineering information systems,” continues Kurtz. “But, if you know what you have and where it is, it becomes easier to plan ahead. You become more proactive and in times of crisis can make more informed decisions quicker.”
The systematic collection, storage, visualisation and analysis of information have therefore been the key to proactive water resource planning and infrastructure management interventions at Stellenbosch Municipality. Accurate information has been vital for Stellenbosch to make critical decisions regarding the management, distribution and exploration of both underground and aboveground water resources. Moreover, this intelligence has informed decisions around investment into, and maintenance of, the municipality’s infrastructure network.
In partnership with Stellenbosch-based software companies, GLS Consulting and IMQS Software, municipal water-resource engineers have acquired the tools to construct, maintain, update and analyse geographically referenced engineering information systems. Accurate, actionable information can be sourced to better plan around the present and future needs of this hydro environment.
The road to more informed water management, explains Kurtz, starts with water and sewer master planning, and ends in the centralisation, presentation and analysis of data.
Water and sewer master plans are complex data sets that model the entire water and sewer distribution network. GLS Consulting’s engineering software, which is built on the back of complex mathematical algorithms, helps to model the hydraulics of the network by calculating pressure and flow in relation to consumption. This information is then geographically depicted, along with the location of municipal water infrastructure and sources, on a digital map that is constantly updated.
This engineering information is simultaneously and continuously fed into IMQS Software’s infrastructure asset management web platform. IMQS Web centralises water-related data and integrates this data with all information located in the municipality’s asset register. The integration and centralisation of financial and engineering data pertaining to water infrastructure make current and future planning a more scientific process. With a holistic view of the entire water network, from water sources to infrastructure assets, it becomes possible to integrate other data sources, such as climate and socio-economic statistics, to build complex matrices that inform scenario building and risk management.
Finally, Stellenbosch also makes use of Internet of Things (IoT) technology to acquire near real-time data that reflects in IMQS Web. Sensors have been placed throughout the water distribution network, including its reservoirs, to offer direct insight into flow, pressure, temperature, water levels, as well as alerting engineers to faults like leaks or bursts.
The IMQS solution focuses on both real-time data monitoring and reporting services by integrating with third-party applications such as Esri and ZedNet. Real-time data monitoring involves enabling monitoring measurements from smart monitoring devices. Reporting services encompass a centralised reporting service to create and publish relevant tabular and graphical reports, necessary to easily monitor KPI’s. Collected sensor and alarm data are shown by IMQS in real time as well as being stored, aggregated and analysed by a data historian. Analytical data is then retrieved and presented by IMQS in a graphical format. This view allows Stellenbosch’s engineers to better understand their water system with real-time accuracy.
IMQS was speaking to Mr Kurtz at the delivery of Stellenbosch’s first container water purification stations.
In an initiative of South African engineering ingenuity, borehole water will be purified in small locally produced water purification stations housed in shipping containers. These water purification stations will be placed at strategic points in the Stellenbosch area. Water will go through SASWA purification procedures and then be pumped into the water system.
With knowledge and accurate information acquired from tools such as water master plans, Stellenbosch’s engineers are able to establish a complex process whereby they pump water into the system in the direction of demand during peak hours, while pumping water back up towards the town’s reservoirs in off-peak hours.
The idea that knowledge is power is deeply ingrained into the psyche of all who plug into the modern information economy.
The Oxford English Dictionary equates knowledge to facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education. Power comes from the practical application of information over time. For knowledge to be acquired, however, the right information is vital – information is power!
While the water situation at Stellenbosch Municipality remains critical, there indeed seems to be a plan going forward. At the base of this plan lies the centralisation and presentation of accurate engineering information.
If you are interested in learning more about IMQS's water solutions, download our eBooks: Sensible Water Solutions for Drought Stricken South Africa and Smart Water for Smart Cities.