The Oldenburgisch-Ostfriesischer Wasserverband (OOWV) works with international partners so that it can better meet future challenges. One such cooperation arrangement took the OOWV and the Wupperverband to East London in South Africa. There, the OOWV entered into a utility partnership with the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality (BCMM) and the Wupperverband. Through the partnership, the partners aim to learn from each other and overcome problems together.
Below, project engineer Meike Lenzen reports on the first dialogue on site which took place in April and May this year.
The working week began with an official meeting of the partners. In presentations, we were familiarised with BCMM's structures. During the round of introductions for all the participants, their main areas of work also came into focus. This was followed by a visit to a dam that is directly adjacent to the drinking water treatment plant. BCMM produces drinking water exclusively from surface water. A large number of dams, some of which are interconnected, were built for this purpose.
During the tour of the drinking water production facilities, it became clear what an impact flash floods have on the treatment process. In January, East London was hit by a flash flood and we could still see the effects in April. Soil eroded by the floods had found its way into the drinking water.
As well as the drinking water treatment facilities, we were also able to visit the 'East Bank' sewage treatment plant during our trip. BCMM has to contend with its proximity to the ocean. The salty air intensifies corrosion processes. The presence of salt water increases the conductivity of the water, which accelerates corrosion. Both plants are similar in design to the OOWV plants, yet there are differences in the process. Unlike OOWV, BCMM draws its raw water from surface waters rather than groundwater. For this reason, an additional dosage of activated carbon is used. At the sewage treatment plant, the biggest difference was that surface aerators are used in aeration basins, as opposed to the bottom aerators we use.
Over the next few days, the working groups got together to discuss visits and possible points of cooperation.
We also had the opportunity to visit an environmental education institution, and talk to the local staff about their work and the challenges they face. One very valuable product of our trip is the face-to-face dialogue. Through the joint visits, the personal interaction and the shared dinners, we have now got to know in-person the people whom we previously only got to know virtually. We are convinced that this personal acquaintance has stepped up our working level and are very much looking forward to the coming years in our joint project.