Water is a valuable commodity – especially in the age of climate change. The experts from the TÜV NORD GROUP are supporting governments, official bodies and industries all over the world in their endeavours to secure the water supply of tomorrow.
When asked why DMT, a company with a long history of involvement in the mining sector, spends its time on issues of water management around the world, Dr Bernhard Teigler can’t suppress a smile. “Managing water has always played a key role in mining. You either have too much or too little.” The experts from DMT are active all over the world. In the construction, infrastructure, plant construction and process technology markets and in the commodities field, they offer consulting and engineering services.
Efficient water supplies
In South Africa, Dr Bernhard Teigler and his team of experts from the local DMT company, Kai Batla, are supporting the Department for Water and Sanitation (DWS) in the management of water consumption in mining, agriculture and industry. DMT is also offering advice in the sparing use of water in Ukraine and Russia. The 59-year-old geologist reduces the issues that need to be sorted out for efficient water supply management to a simple formula: “What falls from the sky, what is stored and what is used?”
“We need to protect our water reserves for tomorrow - especially in the age of climate change. And water management has a key role to play here.”
Dr Teigler is familiar with Africa. He lived for many years in South Africa and Namibia; he now regularly spends his time commuting between Essen and the Cape of Good Hope. His task is to carry out an inventory of industrial and agricultural water use, based on sound scientific principles, in three out of a total of nine Water Management Areas. These results will be drawn on when it comes to issuing the new licences required under the National Water Act to exploit ground or surface water resources.
The scarcity of water is a very serious problem in South Africa. Since the winter of 2017, Cape Town has been suffering under one of the most severe droughts of the last 110 years. Its causes lie in climate change and weather phenomena like El Niño but also increasing demand for water as a result of growing industrialisation and lifestyle changes. “Managing and distributing water resources is becoming an ever more important task,” says Dr Teigler by way of explanation of the challenges faced.
Master plan for water supply
South African government experts are currently forecasting a nationwide shortfall in supply of between 2.7 and 3.8 billion cubic meters of water, roughly 70% of the total needed, for the year 2030 alone. It is for this reason that South Africa has drawn up a master plan to deal with the problem over the coming decades. And the commitment of Dr Teigler and his team is an essential part of that plan: “Our project is the basis for the management and use of water in South Africa,” the geologist explains.
Roughly 9 in every 10 South African households are connected to the water supply grid. However, the infrastructure is dilapidated: 37% of the water leaks out of the pipes before it gets to its destination. This is compounded by a further problem: in the reservoirs, which number thirty or so, and the hundreds of storage basins, the available supplies are dwindling rapidly. “There is actually enough storage capacity as long as the reservoirs are regularly replenished. But this hasn’t happened for years,” Dr Teigler explains.
The last available measurements were in some cases made at the time when apartheid still held sway and completely other priorities applied. In the meantime, the ownership of land has changed and, in many cases, the boundaries between plots are still fuzzy. The structural changes mean, on the one hand, that the significance of self-providers is increasing: on the other, large-scale enterprises are producing important agricultural goods for export. South African agriculture requires almost two thirds of the available water, which has to be distributed between all the enterprises involved.
To record the water data, DMT relies on state-of-the-art methods which are based on the scientific evaluation of available satellite or topographic data and used in digital forecasting models. “We managed to convince our client that we didn’t necessarily need to be present on the ground to carry out this project,” Dr Teigler says. Now that the first phase is complete, next on the agenda are presentations of the data collected at stakeholder meetings with all the parties involved.
The water management issue will continue to be a major challenge for South Africa for decades to come. Alongside the development of a functioning information system as the basis for water management, enormous investment in the modernisation of the infrastructure is required, particularly if the current high levels of water loss are to be avoided. For the implementation of its master plan, the South African government has made a deliberate decision to place more emphasis on collaborations between public and private partners, as in the case of the successful cooperation between the government and DMT. In this way, the experts from the TÜV NORD GROUP are already playing their part in securing the water supply of tomorrow.