Cape Town's water consumption are set to come under the microscope as the city's participation in a collaborative research project with the Dutch government and the Centre of Expertise has been approved by council.
The project will trial a unique software tool, the Comparative Flow Pattern Distribution (CFPD) method, which analyses water consumption data. The software promises to assist the city in identifying changes in water consumption patterns, thereby serving as an early detection tool for pipe leaks and bursts, which could result in millions of rands worth of savings.
This is particularly important in a water scarce region such as Cape Town, where the resource needs to be strictly managed to ensure security of supply. Using this technology has helped the Netherlands to bring down their water losses to one of the world's best levels, at 10,2%.
Objective of study
"What will make this research even more interesting is that the objective of the study is to assess how the CFPD tool can be modified to suit the city's own particular flow pattern conditions. If we are successful in applying the tool effectively to the city's reticulation network, it is hoped that we will be able to achieve improved performance, enhanced sustainability, and a better understanding of supply and demand dynamics in different parts of Cape Town," said the city's Mayoral Committee member for Utility Services, Ernest Sonnenberg.
The software works by looking at water consumption in a particular area over a certain period and detecting any deviation in its consumption pattern over that time. Detecting a deviation in the pattern soon after it occurs will allow trained staff to accurately locate the source of the irregularity, investigate its cause, and initiate whatever action necessary to remedy it.
"The key challenge in identifying water reticulation faults is that, being underground, they can go undetected for quite some time. What is more, the longer a leak goes undetected, the higher the chances that invasive and disruptive repairs will be required. For these reasons, early detection is invaluable," said Sonnenberg.
"It is important to remember, however, that the city cannot secure access to water without buy-in and cooperation from residents. While we do what we can to limit the potential for water wastage, responsible consumption by the end-user is the biggest factor in how far Cape Town's water resources can stretch. Mindful habits are all the more essential now, with relatively low rainfall levels in the region recorded so far this winter.
"The city is looking forward to long-term partnerships between South Africa and the Netherlands using design-led thinking and innovation for sustainable development, and to commencing staff training and initial operations for this project over the next few months," said Sonnenberg.