More than 50% of the water that is purchased by eThekwini Municipality from Umgeni Water is unaccounted for. In the 2021/2022 period this loss amounted to R1.8 billion (225,739,779 m3). These numbers highlight the need for a solution in the metering infrastructure used by the municipality. eThekwini’s smart metering strategy is to:
- Have one standard Advanced Monitoring Infrastructure(AMI) architecture that will cater for both electricity and water smart metering requirements.
- Leverage as much of the municipality’s existing infrastructure as possible.
- Share/combine as many smart metering services and infrastructure between the Electricity Unit and Water and Sanitation Unit as possible in order to avoid duplication of efforts within the municipality.
How is Open Cities Lab involved?
Open Cities Lab have had the privilege of being invited to assist with this exciting project. Our involvement has been to guide the team and participants forward using design thinking methodology which was introduced into the project by our team coordinator Sandile. We have taken a user centric approach to understanding the challenges around developing a smart water meter. The user of a smart water metering system has to keep various stakeholders in mind like: decision makers in government, through to meter installation teams and all the way across to residents and corporate end-users of the system.
Our engagements with people working in water from WISA, EWS, DWS and BCMM have brought us a wealth of knowledge and incredible insight which we are incredibly excited about.
Learnings from Buffalo City Municipality
- Smart meters do not solve the challenge of unmatched meters (meter exists but is not linked to a household or account holder).
- The timing of smart meter installations is of the essence: politically charged periods (e.g. elections, cabinet reshuffles, etc) are unpredictable, and new infrastructure is at risk of vandalism.
- Vandalism: The realities of theft (e.g. izinyoka) for metal recycling is a near pandemic in SA. If metal, especially easily removable metal, parts can be avoided they should be.
- Smart meter service providers are not licensed to bill clients in SA at the moment: smart meters that are part of the pilot program only do meter reading and share to a centralised cloud and managed by a third party that then bills the clients.
We participated in a Learning Exchange
The eThekwini Municipal Institute of Learning (MILE), in partnership with the Water Institute of Southern Africa (WISA), hosted a learning exchange that seeks to address water management challenges through the design, construction and testing of low-cost smart metering devices, compatible with existing water meters.
Organisations that participated
- eThekwini Municipality is the local government body responsible for governing and managing Durban and serves an area of 2300 square kilometers. The eThekwini Metro Area (EMA) is an amalgamation of racial and cultural diversity, with African, Indian and European influences creating a vibrant cosmopolitan society.
- Water Institute of Southern Africa (WISA) brings together experts from a wide range of disciplines to meet, discuss, plan for and present solutions for a sustainable water future in the region. WISA helps bring governments, stakeholders, partners and public participants together to find innovative ways of managing water to ensure a sustainable and robust water supply for our growing urban populations.
- Umgeni Water is a State-Owned Entity (SOE), established in 1974, to provide water services — water supply and sanitation services — to other water services institutions in its service area, and is categorized as a National Government Business Enterprise.
- Microsoft Azure is a flexible IT solution that provides the freedom to build, deploy and manage applications through a global network and on a consumption basis and is currently used by a variety of South African Municipal Organisations.
- Municipal Institute of Learning (MILE) aims to MILE to build strong partnerships with other institutions that are operating in the local government practitioner capacity enhancement field, and helps facilitate the enhancement of professional and technical capacity of local government professionals on the African continent.
- Go Digital SA Foundation’s purpose is to be a change agent that transfers skills, instils confidence, and highlights enterprise development opportunities. GoDigitalSA actively promotes the learning of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics [STEM] using innovative processes and tools.