Massive investment needed in water infrastructure to meet future demand

As aging steel piping for the country’s water infrastructure breads down over time, smarter and more efficient solutions are needed to safeguard the wellbeing of future generations.

“Kenya’s population has doubled over the last 25 years to about 46 million people and rapid population growth is set to continue. Water is a critical resource for urbanization and the county governments have to invest to expand the infrastructure to cope with the current demand. Parallel to this problem is as steel pipes grow older; they rust and are more likely to burst and leak. When there are leaks in drinking water and sewage pipelines in close proximity to each other, it is possible for drinking water networks to be contaminated by sewage resulting in the spread of water borne diseases such as cholera,” said Eng. Philip Holi, Davis & Shirtliff’s Technical Director.

Water distribution infrastructure and capacity, according to the water and energy solutions company presents a challenge to the growing population in the form of leakages and lost revenue.

 “Other than water shortages resulting from leaks, the major impact of non-revenue water is the increase in the cost of water as the cost of the lost non-revenue water has to be covered by the cost of actual water supplied,” said Eng. Holi commenting on the impact non-revenue water due to challenges with water distribution.

Eng. Holi pointed out that through Public Private Partnerships, the government can install and maintain water infrastructure across the country.

“There are opportunities for government and the private sector to collaborate. NGOs can support the government in the development of new policies as well as sensitization of the population on the importance of using water wisely. The private sector on the other hand is typically at the forefront of developing new water technologies and solutions which can be used by government,” Eng. Holi added.

Leveraging on data to identify and solve everyday problems in the water infrastructure value chain is key with some of the new water technologies that can be utilized to revive the water sector including the use of wireless networks, cloud analytics and data modelling. Data modelling and analysis can for example be used to help engineers easily identify abnormal water flows such as those caused by leaks and ultimately help in pinpointing exactly where these leaks are through collected and analyzed data on water flows.

“Wireless network solutions such as SigFox and LoRa are available and allow the deployment of low cost mobile computing devices to monitor and manage water infrastructure. Such devices can be connected to various cloud infrastructures such as those provided by IBM, Amazon or Microsoft and which provide advanced artificial intelligence or machine learning algorithms enabling users to carry out sophisticated analysis of water infrastructure data,” Eng. Holi explained.

He added that: “iDayliff is an example of technology developed by Davis & Shirtliff engineers that is rapidly finding applications in improving water infrastructure efficiencies in East Africa. The iDayliff platform finds application in pump monitoring, water treatment system control, and pipeline monitoring among others. The system can be used to identify potential equipment failure before it occurs for example enabling engineers to ensure that their pumps are always working and maintenance activities are carried out before problems occur.”

A number of other companies have come up with technologies that reduce incidences of revenue loss and allow service providers to monitor and manage their water sales such as smart water metering and technologies for water kiosks that enable water service providers to offer pay as you go solutions for water dispensing or water pumping.