The water and wastewater industry oversees one of the world’s most important resources. This calls for continuous investments in infrastructure and new technologies. When viewed from outer space, the earth is a blue planet. Two thirds of its surface is water, so you would think there could not possibly be a shortage of this life-giving substance. The reality is, only three percent of what we see on our planet is fresh water (useable water) and only one third of that is available in liquid form. The rest of the world’s fresh water is held dormant in vast expanses of permanent ice found at the poles and in glaciers.
On the flip side is the world’s unquenchable thirst. After all, without water there would be no hydration, no plant growth, no manufacturing, no raw material extraction, no power plant cooling, and no survival. “All life and industries around the world depend on quality water in sufficient quantity,” says Hennie Pretorius, industry manager of water and wastewater for Endress+Hauser South Africa. “So, how do we ensure there is enough usable water for our needs?”
An irreplaceable resource
The world’s water supply systems make sure that this valuable resource is collected and delivered to where it’s needed. Drawn from wells, springs and rivers, the raw material is treated and transformed into drinking water using a variety of steps, which include everything from the removal of unwanted solids by filtration to biological decontamination.
Further downstream is the wastewater industry, which collects water that has been contaminated through human use and returns it to the natural water cycle after cleaning it thoroughly using mechanical, biological and chemical processes. After the effluent cleaning processes, the accrued sludge is treated to reduce sludge volume and generate electricity. All these processes call for a great deal of measurement technology.
Endress+Hauser continues with its global focus on the water and wastewater industry. “Although this is a global industry, it is driven by local demands and regulatory requirements,” says Pretorius. Simply put, water and wastewater is a heavily fragmented industry. Megatrends such as demographic developments, urbanisation and climate change all impact differently from region to region. In developed countries for instance, nearly the entire population has access to water and wastewater services. In many developing countries, investments in infrastructure for water and wastewater treatment is only at the initial stages. Global companies shape the local market, acting simultaneously as planner, plant builder and operator. In other places, it is driven by large national companies, while other services come from thousands of communal providers.
In South Africa the responsibilities of water and wastewater fall on municipalities and parastatal water boards.
Simple solutions for various needs
“Globally our customers have diverse needs, so we must adapt our instruments, solutions and services accordingly,“ continues Pretorius. In general terms, the industry expects reliable, robust, simple to operate and low maintenance measurement technology with an excellent price-performance ratio. When building the infrastructure, there is a natural tendency to focus on lean, cost-optimised planning, as well as reliable systems that
can be commissioned in a short period of time. In operation, the focus shifts to matters such as efficiency improvements, resource conservation and modernisation.
Tighter regulations for water and wastewater quality also drive operators to make ongoing investments, for example in fourth stage treatment systems to remove micro-pollutants like pharmaceutical products (including beauty and cleaning products) and hormones. The new technologies required in turn increase system complexity and the degree of automation.
This extensive diversity is no problem for Endress+Hauser. “We deeply understand our customers’ applications and processes thanks to our comprehensive industry know-how and our strong expert network. We speak our customers’ language,” explains Pretorius. “A decentralised organisation structure allows Endress+ Hauser to understand precise local requirements and situations and to respond quickly – something that also goes down well with global players. Globally our customers have diverse needs, so we must adapt our instruments, solutions and services accordingly to implement international projects. We boast the industry’s most extensive instrument portfolio and distinguish ourselves with a wide range of services and solutions. This allows us to offer our customers genuine added value.”
Globally anchored for local applications
In South Africa, Endress+ Hauser’s strength lies in communal drinking water and wastewater services. There is growth potential in this industry, the third largest sector after public water utilities, as well as in water recycling and desalination.
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