The Buffalo City Municipal Department manages the budgetary and planning processes of the area and promotes the social and economic development of the community. The goal of the Technical Directorate is to provide a sustainable, reliable and affordable technical infrastructure, including for drinking water supply and wastewater disposal.
Oldenburgisch-Ostfriesischer Wasserverband (OOWV) supplies water to more than one million people in north-western Germany. With 46 sewage treatment plants, the water association is also responsible for controlled wastewater management in 38 municipalities and for one wastewater services association. OOWV has around 850 staff. As a corporation under public law, it operates on a non-profit basis and re-invests all surpluses.
Wupperverband performs water management tasks across municipal boundaries throughout the Wupper catchment area, which measures 813 sq km. It also operates 14 dams, 11 sewage treatment plants and a sludge incineration plant. In addition, it manages around 2,300 km of rivers and streams.
The background of this cooperation is the partnership between the Eastern Cape Province and the German federal state of Lower Saxony, which has existed since 1995 and is constantly being expanded. This is also how a climate partnership between Oldenburg and Buffalo City Municipality came into being in 2013 and led to first joint projects between OOWV and Buffalo City.
The three water utilities - South Africa’s Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality, the OOWV and the Wupperverband in Germany – serve very different catchment areas, but there is one commonality that unites them: namely their commitment to climate change adaptation. Declining groundwater tables as a result of persistent drought along with frequent heavy rainfall events and flooding are just some of the challenges that have to be resolved in order to safeguard future water supplies. Other factors include the ever-growing demand for water and rising levels of groundwater salinisation in coastal areas. On top of this, operations in South Africa are hampered by a variety of other problems, such as an ageing infrastructure, dwindling water supplies and high water losses. This project is all about finding a joint solution to these issues.
The ongoing pandemic situation and the considerable distances involved meant the partner organisations first started their joint activities on a virtual platform. The project itself is dedicated to four key priority areas: drinking water, waste water, digitalisation and environmental education. The kick-off workshop marking the start of this joint engagement took place on 2 February 2022.
With integrated water management (IWM) and a focus on climate change adaptation as their point of departure, the partners’ main thematic priority is the demand for water.
Specifically: water supply, especially for industrial purposes, but also the effective management of existing water resources.
But also the topic of water losses and asset management will be considered together, here the focus is on peer-to-peer exchange in order to benefit from each other's knowledge. In terms of asset management, the partners aim to reduce water losses. Pertinent infrastructure can only be optimally managed and improved, if coordinated maintenance concepts are put in place. Moreover, the qualitative and quantitative aspects of water consumption need to be determined more precisely.
This is why predictive maintenance plays such as significant role in this priority area.
Furthermore, the project also targets vandalism prevention as well as dam and reservoir management.
No company can ignore digitalisation – as the coronavirus pandemic made so eminently clear. For this reason, the three partners will compare their digitalisation strategies with each other, and adapt them as necessary. The collection, storage and analysis of data can also be made easier using water management information systems. The plan is for the partners to each present the various systems they use and for the project to then ascertain whether – or to what extent – a system co-developed by the University of Oldenburg with the Oldenburg-East Frisian Water Association (OOWV) can be rolled out in Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality.
Communication is key when it comes to adapting to climate change as changes in water consumption and usage are heavily reliant on people’s acceptance and support. However, internal communication and cooperation within a company are also important for, say, improving disaster management following a heavy rainfall event or for working on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For this reason, this work package trains water conservation officers to help the companies to conduct water awareness campaigns in schools, universities, and among the general public.
Important for this partnership is the exchange of colleagues at eye level in order to work out possible implementation and adaptation strategies and then to plan the implementation together. After the initial visits to both East London and Germany, the partners were finally able to get to know each other in person. These meetings have created a familiar working basis. There is a regular virtual exchange within the working groups, which helps us to achieve the work goals. Further visits within the individual working groups are planned. We will report on these here.
Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Oldenburgisch-Ostfriesischer Wasserverband, Oldenburg (Lead-Partner)
Adaption to climate change – increase the resilience of water supply towards climate change: