How Diving In Technology Can Help Revive Johannesburg’s Ailing Water System


Community members fill buckets of water from a communal tap in a village outside Senwabarwana, Limpopo. Photo: Léon Sadiki


Johannesburg is the economic center of South Africa and needs an uninterrupted supply of water to ensure the continuation of economic activity if one is to avoid disinvestment and the resulting job losses, as one saw it recently in the Northwest.

Although the City of Gold currently enjoys some water security with complete dams after a heavy rainy season, much of its hydraulic infrastructure requires maintenance and repairs. Burst pipes, blockages and vandalized water meters make it harder for the city’s limited budget to repair its aging infrastructure.

LILY: Helen Joseph hospital water failure threatens the lives of dialysis patients

When you add the rapid urbanization underway in South Africa – with 71% of the population expected to live in cities by 2030 – it’s clear that Johannesburg‘s metro authorities need to do more than just maintain its water infrastructure. . They must also extend it.

While Johannesburg Water is responsive on Twitter, through its call center and SMS line, the city could manage its preventive maintenance and repair strategy more effectively if it had an accurate and real-time overview of our water infrastructure. and its condition.

Groundwork has already been done in the form of the National Treasury Infrastructure Delivery Management System, a document that describes the systematic processes of infrastructure delivery and maintenance.

The last necessary step is digital transformation and it is possible with digital twin technology. A digital twin is a digital replica of the city’s water infrastructure system to give managers a single view of what’s going on, its condition, and what repairs need to be done.

A more data-driven approach to managing the city is likely to boost service delivery, making the city more sustainable, efficient and liveable for everyone.

Having this kind of inside information helps decision-making and helps determine which problems need to be fixed first and which can be avoided with preventive maintenance.

Plus, because it’s driven by artificial intelligence, a digital twin guiding those decisions means human error is less likely.

This digital twin would contain data on the condition of every pipe, valve and pump, making it easier for different Joburg Water teams to use the same data to work together, rather than in silos.

A digital replica would also create a detailed record of every job done on our infrastructure, when it was done and by whom. This is important because all information on a particular site is saved in one secure place.

If a site repeatedly encountered the same defect, repaired by the same engineer, the data could help determine whether the engineer needs to be retrained or if the necessary repair is much more extensive than previously thought.

The work involved in building a digital twin would also create jobs – and not just for computer programmers and data analysts – but also for entry-level workers. The process of creating a digital twin requires people to scan and capture data, install sensors and Internet of Things devices, and higher-level tasks of analyzing the information communicated by those devices and to make decisions on how to be used and maintained.

LILY: Helen Joseph doctor warns ‘patients will die’ as water crisis increases backlog for surgery

Setting up a digital twin of Johannesburg’s water infrastructure could be the start of even bigger things: the next step could be the digital twins of our transport system and public buildings.

A more data-driven approach to managing the city is likely to boost service delivery, making the city more sustainable, efficient and liveable for everyone.

Although the country’s economy is limited and the budgets of the city of Johannesburg are under pressure, data-driven project planning and management can help local and national governments use the city’s water resources more efficiently. South Africa and implement more proactive maintenance programs.

. Dominic Collett is an Urban Development Engineer and Smart City Specialist at Royal HaskoningDHV


About Mitchel McMillan

Check Also

TAKE A LOOK | Netcare auctions off two of its former hospitals in Joburg

Netcare Clinton Hospital (Supplied) Netcare’s Union and Clinton hospitals, both south of Johannesburg, will go …