Sector stakeholders share insights

By Luzamo Sandlana

Water sector professionals and other stakeholders gathered recently for the biennial Water Institute of Southern Africa (WISA) conference to share experiences and knowledge on enhancing the security of supply of the critical resource. TCTA, as a knowledge hub in the sector, took the center stage with various insightful presentations.

The 2020 edition of the WISA conference was held under the theme “All hands on deck” and took place virtually. It various important topics that looked at, among other things, how to reduce water demand and increase supply. The participants further explored managing and monitoring effective water and sanitation services and infrastructure; and how to improve raw water quality and management.

Richard Holden, Dawid Bosman and Gwen Gosney represented TCTA in the conference, participated in its various workshops and presented papers. Holden opened the berth, presenting a paper on “Securing Water Security in South Africa” on the first day of the gathering.

The presentation began with an exploration of what in essence water security meant. “Water security can mean different things,” Holden told the participants. “For a person, at its most fundamental, it is the difference between life and death, but it is interesting to note how little this is understood.”

The presentation focused on an analysis of how other countries have managed water security and the lessons South Africa and others can draw from those experiences.

Gosney, on the other hand, facilitated an interactive workshop on Water Pipeline Servitudes. The session explored the question, “Why Environmental Matters Matter?”. It underscored the importance of environmental variables in the effective planning, design, construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of water pipeline servitudes.

The opening presentation by Gosney highlighted significant pipeline servitude management challenges as observed over the past 15 years. Causal factors were explored and recommendations for improvement were tabled, which sparked further discussions.

The Water Pipeline Servitudes workshop allowed participants to share their insights and experience towards improving the quality and sustainability of water transfer infrastructure developments.

On day three of the conference, Bosman tackled seawater desalination and its advantages despite the popular belief that it is an expensive, energy-intensive means of producing fresh water. “As a result of these attitudes, desalination is mostly seen as a water resource of last resort and often called upon only when a prolonged drought has overwhelmed the existing supply system,” he said.

Bosman argued that using seawater desalination as a last resort often led to disappointing results, emanating from a raft of potential mistakes: These included inadequate feed water characterisation, sub-optimal site selection, failed value-engineering solutions, unfavourable market conditions and improper financial planning.

A planned adoption of desalination would be more advantageous to the water management authority, water users and the regional economy, than a piecemeal approach compelled by unforeseen events, Bosman concluded.

The WISA conference, which took place on 07-11 December, is one of the biggest of its type in Southern African. It brings together scores of water sector stakeholders from across the country and beyond to share ideas around the issue of water and the challenges associated with the scarcity of this precious resource.