As South Africa – and the world at large – face growing concerns regarding human and environmental health, conversations about our most precious resource – water – should be front and centre in tackling the challenges ahead. Recognising the importance of water, and the need for responsible and sustainable management of this resource, the focus should be on how to do more with less, as our water sources become increasingly limited.

                   Quintin Mccutcheon at Schneider Electric SA.

“Water management needs to be more efficient than ever before,” says Quintin Mccutcheon, Digital Transformation Leader at Schneider Electric South Africa. “For water network managers, this means you need to create a water supply that is highly resilient, efficient and sustainable.”

Water management is a complicated industry characterised by wide geographical networks, underground infrastructure and fluctuating network demands. “Add to this South Africa’s challenges of aging infrastructure and skills shortages, and it becomes clear why the country lost an estimated 1.1 million litres of water in 2019,” says Mccutcheon.

To create resilient, efficient and sustainable water supplies requires automatic management of these potentially fragile, difficult to access, widely distributed water networks. The goal is to establish a system that responds reliably to changing flow and pressure demands at all points across the entire network. Digital tools can help manage water supply networks by giving operators more visibility into the system, better insights, and improved control. Mccutcheon explains how Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure integrated solutions can improve South Africa’s water management industry.

“With EcoStruxure Control Expert - Asset Link, we can put critical business insights into the hands of network managers and operators more easily than before. EcoStruxure can connect an application down to field devices and take full advantage of digital hydraulic modelling to monitor pressure, flow, quality and other variables across the water network. This allows operators in control rooms to connect to field devices easily, to monitor a dynamic, real-time view of the network. In this way, it also gives them the ability to predict future network behaviour and service disruptions.”

Built-in integration of control and supervisory systems makes automating water networks much faster and easier, and it helps implement changes more quickly and accurately down the road.

“Municipalities looking to reduce costs and improve operations will find that digitalising their water networks yields new ways to reduce costs and optimise operations,” says Mccutcheon. He adds that using an integrated water network management system offers many benefits which will improve and maintain high levels of water supply services. These include:

  • Adapting to demand in real-time to maintain optimal water pressure and improving reliability for consumers, while minimising leakages in the network
  • Improving the efficiency of pump operations which increases operational sustainability and reduces operating costs, resulting in less frequent rate increases
  • Identifying issues before they happen so operators can proactively inform customers of potential issues before customers encounter them on their own.

“All these factors help today’s water supply utilities to increase efficiency, use less energy, avoid leakages and breakdowns, and supply and treat the ever-increasing amounts of water needed to match population growth trends,” says Mccutcheon.

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