This week’s commemoration of World Water Day is more significant to South Africans than ever before.
The drought in the Western, Eastern and Northern Cape has been elevated to Natural Disaster status – unlocking emergency government funding for relief for water scarce areas.

While there is great awareness on the plight of Cape Town, which was initially predicted to reach Day Zero on 12 April 2018, the city continues to see a steady decline in dam water levels on a weekly basis.

There is immense pressure on residents to save water by consuming no more than 50 litres of water per day. Despite this, CSIR principal researcher and research group leader Marius Claassen has reporte that over a third of South Africa’s water supply is being lost due to aged and leaking infrastructure before it can be used.

Smart metering offers an opportunity to better manage and measure water consumption as well as identify problem areas, potential issues leading to wastage, leaks, and infrastructure damage.

“Smart water metering has proven to be a highly effective solution for managing precious water resources by reducing wastage and costs, both through leak detection, timely water consumption feedback and changing consumer behavior. South Africa is facing its worst drought in 100 years. We believe that smart metering solutions hold the answers to many challenges in the water management ecosystem,” says Zhu Ming, Huawei’s IoT regional director.

The Huawei smart water meter solution uses Huawei’s Narrow Band Internet of Things (NB-IoT) technology. The Smart Water Solution offers three major benefits.

First, it adopts a grid-based water meter system, monitors the pipeline network in real time, and rapidly locates pipeline failures to enable leakage analysis, as a result the rate of water leakage can be reduced.

Second, users often complain about disturbances caused by manual meter reading or inaccurate manual estimation. Automatic meter reading effectively solves all these issues, helping to reduce user complaints and improve service quality.

Third, this solution enables real-time data backhaul. This enables data related to water, such as quality, pressure, and temperature, to be managed to enhance the capabilities of water utilities.

This solution is already being implemented in South Africa’s BRICS counterpart, Shenzhen China where it was launched in March 2017. Huawei jointly released the world’s first commercial NB-IoT-based Smart Water project in cooperation with Shenzhen Water and China Telecom.

This project, involving 800 MHz NB-IoT base stations managed by OceanConnect, established an industry benchmark for NB-IoT-based applications. With China Telecom’s network and its “eCloud 3.0” platform, the project helped Shenzhen Water avoid losses from missing readings and water leakages from pipelines.

The outcome was significantly lower costs compared to those of traditional manual meter readings. By analysing the water usage patterns of different consumer groups, the system also provides clear guidance for the construction and maintenance of pipelines.

“Huawei is ready to work closely with our local partners and customers to roll out what we believe should be an essential water management system to help end-customers/users and water utilities more efficiently manage consumption of this precious natural resource, says Zhu Ming.