OOWV – Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality

The project participants

International partner

Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality

The Buffalo City Municipal Department manages the budgetary and planning processes in its geographical remit and promotes the municipality’s social and economic development. The Technical Directorate aims to provide a sustainable, reliable and affordable technical infrastructure, above all for drinking water supply and wastewater disposal.

Lead partner

Oldenburgisch-Ostfriesischer Wasserverband

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.

Participating partners


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.

Expanding our horizons

Collaborative learning, new approaches and mutually beneficial exchanges – the utility partnership between Germany’s Oldenburg-Ostfriesischer Wasserverband (OOWV) and the Wupperverband with South Africa’s Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality (BCMM) is a driving force for reciprocity that has kickstarted a great many activities since its official launch in February 2022: joint focal points have been prioritised, digital exchanges held, initial objectives achieved and in-person meetings organised. Importantly, this partnership is not a one-way street of North-to-South knowledge transfer, but an exchange from all sides can learn.

The project

The backdrop to these collaborative efforts is the partnership between Eastern Cape Province and the German federal state of Lower Saxony which has continued to grow steadily since its launch in 1995. By way of example, Oldenburg and Buffalo City Municipality also formed a climate partnership in 2013, leading to some initial joint projects between BCMM and OOWV.

The first thing that springs to mind with respect to South Africa and water is the Cape Town water crisis of 2018 (Day Zero) when it appeared that this major city could no longer secure its own municipal water supplies. However, water losses and water availability are not the only challenges facing water supply and sanitation companies in South Africa today. Other issues that need addressing include the drop in groundwater tables in the wake of persistent drought and, at the other extreme, the frequent heavy rainfall events with attendant flooding. In the meantime, these issues now feature on the daily agenda of water supply companies operating in Germany. Hence it makes sense to engage in mutual exchanges and to learn from, and with, each other.

The three water utilities – BCCM, Wupperverband and OOWV – serve very different catchment areas, but there is one commonality that unites them, namely sustainable adaptation to climate change, which is precisely what the partnership is working to achieve.  

Virtual start

Owing to the ongoing pandemic situation and the considerable distances involved, the partner organisations first started their joint activities on a virtual platform. The project’s kick-off workshop took place in a virtual format on 2 February 2022. Virtual tools are an excellent support modality for international cooperation but they cannot replace real-life exchanges between people.

In May 2022, a German delegation made its first visit to East London. Many ideas were mapped out here. Also, the partnership’s thematic focal areas were agreed on. Shortly afterwards, a delegation from South Africa was able to reciprocate and make its first visit to Germany. And it was precisely through these in-person exchanges that the partnership succeeded in developing the right momentum. Thanks to these personal contacts, the various partners will now write an email or pick up the phone to see whether a counterpart has an idea or even actual experience about topics that are perhaps not in their respective operation plans.

The partnership’s key areas of activity:

The partnership has working groups dedicated to following four key areas of activity: drinking water, sanitation, digitalisation and environmental education.

Drinking water:
East London was hit by a flash flood in January 2022 and months later, during the first exchange visit, the quality of raw water was still effected by it. Together, the organisations are looking to see how raw water quality can be stabilised through drinking water protection areas and by adapting water extraction.
Water loss and asset management are other issues that are also being examined jointly. The focus here is on peer-to-peer exchange, with a view to learning from each other’s knowledge.

The working group on Sanitation focuses on the following topics: sewage and greywater discharge logbooks, laboratory information and management system (LIMS) and capacity development. Both the LIMS and the wastewater logbook are designed to make the collection of data and samples more efficient. If well implemented, the rollout of a sewage and greywater discharge logbook can also be extended to other sewage works.
LIMS is intended to help laboratory staff work more efficiently. LIMS not only makes for standardised workflows but faster data evaluation and swifter compilation of results protocols.
As part of capacity development, a training library is to be set up for sewage plant staff and practical training sessions conducted jointly in the sewage treatment plants.

No company can ignore digitalisation – as made so eminently clear by the coronavirus pandemic. For this reason, the three partners will compare their digitalisation strategies with each other, and adapt them as necessary.
Data management is another focal topic of the Digitalisation working group, the aim being to create a strong interface with the working group on Sanitation. The kind of data collected, as well as data collection, storage and analysis and the forecasts that can be made for the future all form part of this working group’s remit.   

Environmental education
Communication is key when it comes to adapting to climate change, as water consumption and usage correlate greatly with 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 organisations conduct water awareness campaigns in schools, universities, and among the general public.


Important for this partnership is the exchange of experience between colleagues on an equal footing in order to work out possible implementation and adaptation strategies and then implement common goals.
The initial visits to East London and Germany finally gave the partners an opportunity to get to know each other in person. These meetings have created a trust-driven working basis that has considerably simplified exchanges between the professionals involved.
In addition to in-person meetings, there are also virtual exchanges that take place at regular intervals within the working groups to foster objectives achievement. Furthermore, all sides attach great importance to general team meetings, as this is where synergies can be harnessed.  

Virtual exchanges are evidently an expedient tool that existing teams can use to attain their shared objectives. However, it takes in-person encounters to forge the kind of basis needed for really good cooperation.

We will report here on any further visits and successes within the individual working groups!


Project profile

Project partners:

South Africa:

Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality, Eastern Cape, South Africa


Oldenburgisch-Ostfriesischer Wasserverband, Oldenburg (Lead-Partner)

Wupperverband, Wuppertal

Focal areas:

Adaption to climate change – increase the resilience of water supply towards climate change:  

  • drinking water
  • sanitation
  • digitalisation
  • environmental education.

From project work

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"...as if you've known each other forever and a day."

"...as if you've known each other forever and a day."


Eike Riediger works as a wastewater process controller at the Oldenburgisch-Ostfriesischer…

Understanding the background better

Understanding the background better


Impressions from the Drinking Water Working Group's visit to the partner utility Buffalo City…