Flow Measurement & Control


Knowledge sharing: a solution to the aging water infrastructure challenge

June 2023 Flow Measurement & Control

A recent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the South African and UK governments, and which will see the two countries share experience, expertise and best practices in the prioritisation infrastructure projects, is good news for the country. Importantly, the MoU will focus on energy, hydrogen and water, especially the construction of dams; transport, especially logistics and road-to-rail initiatives; and construction of bridges.


Hennie Colyn.

The timing is serendipitous. South Africa’s water infrastructure is aging, like many of our counterparts across the world, and to add insult to injury, is taking quite a beating with the country’s relentless loadshedding. Knowledge sharing can become an invaluable tool in taking the world one step closer to solving its water infrastructure crisis. There are numerous successful projects that pave the way for similar application without reinventing wheel.

Realistically, we have no time to waste; aging and failing water infrastructure leads to water scarcity. Water is crucial to hygiene and health; households deteriorate when water is removed from the equation. Also, water scarcity increases food prices, which again disproportionally affects the most vulnerable members of our society.

The wheels are already turning

The Willingboro Municipal Utilities Authority (WMUA) based in New Jersey, USA had been facing the drawbacks of an aging water and wastewater (WWW) infrastructure. The system, dating as far as back as1950, could no longer adequately supply WWW to Willingboro’s 34 000-strong community.

Township leaders recognised that the increasing cost of maintaining and operating aging assets, paired with the need to mitigate future risks, meant that improving infrastructure to be resilient and energy-efficient would provide the greatest value to residents.

The project, among others, replaced the outdated and inefficient manual metering system with 13 000 new Advanced Metering (AMI) smart meters. The metering systems benefit both township and residents as they provide leak alarms, therefore saving time and costs.

A metering system also provides real-time measurement readings for improved data analysis that delivers a more accurate reflection of how water is being used and where it is coming from. Subsequently, personnel are freed up from manual meter reading to respond to faults in the system faster, and keep up with routine system maintenance.

In partnership with Schneider Electric, the WMUA rolled out the following infrastructure improvements:

• Installation of 13 000 AMI water meters.

• Improved pollutions control plant (PCP) processes including a combined heat and power (CHP) plant.

• A microgrid which includes battery storage and cogeneration.

• Real-time data and reporting to monitor controls and equipment.

• PCP plant process optimisation, including a digester mixing system to improve circulation and consistency of sludge thickener.

• Energy-saving LED lighting throughout the authority’s facilities.

It is estimated that the project will save the WMU approximately R127 million over 20 years, and will have a minimal impact on the rate structure, primarily due to significant savings from process and operational improvements. Importantly, the upgraded infrastructure will ensure high quality, clean drinking water and safe sanitation that is essential for the daily lives of Willingboro and other communities served by WMUA.

The above project is one of many that illustrate that there are real and tangible solutions to overcome aging WWW infrastructure challenges. Moreover, it outlines the technologies that are making a tremendous difference to the daily management, monitoring and maintenance of the system.

Schneider Electric offers a range of water resources solutions to rectify crucial challenges like the modernisation of pipelines and water treatment plants, within a limited budget. Our aim is to efficiently and sustainably manage water infrastructure. Our IoT-enabled platform, EcoStruxure, offers a wide variety of WWW solutions that effectively enhance applications and processes across the water cycle by providing connected products, edge control, apps, analytics and services.


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