Water shortage in South Africa drives schools to adopt smart meters
Water shortage in South Africa spurs adoption of smart metering

Water shortage in South Africa drives schools to adopt smart meters

Schools in South Africa are deploying smart water metering technology in a bid to tackle drought conditions. 

South Africa’s Western Cape is experiencing a serious drought following three successive years of dry weather. A lack of rainfall has forced local authorities and corporate giants to come together to save water where they can and deploy smart metering technology. Schools are the first target.

The smart meter technology has been developed by Stellenbosch University’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Once connected to a municipal water meter, it provides a live feed to an application via cellular, NB-IoT or Sigfox connectivity.

Information on water usage is made available through the app and sent via email as part of a daily report. Notifications of unexpected events, such as burst water pipes, can be sent by SMS and email.

Professor Thinus Booysen, whose team developed the technology, has pointed out that developing an awareness of water use in real time is often enough to bring about substantial savings.

Reductions as high as 68 percent were observed in a pilot project at a primary school. The associated savings per month equal the salaries of two junior teachers.

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The Smart Water Meter Challenge

With a pressing need to save water where possible and technology able to make it happen, corporations and schools are coming together as part of the Smart Water Meter Challenge.

Retail giant Shoprite founded the initiative and is one of 59 companies to sponsor water meter installations in schools across the Western Cape. So far, 325 schools have been funded; their progress can be viewed via a live dashboard.

Cape Town’s education minister Debbie Schäfer recently visited the Hector Peterson Secondary School in Wallacedene, where 38,000 litres of water has been saved this year.

“I think this is very exciting,” she said. “It’s wonderful to see such practical initiatives being developed in our everyday life. It’s hugely important for us to save water, especially in a crisis.”

“For those who can afford this device, my plea is that they please look into this and please be receptive to saving water at their schools.”

“If the Shoprite/Cape Talk challenge is successful, this could save up to 10 million litres a day – if these schools achieve the savings Hector Peterson Secondary School did.”

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Smart meters aid behavior change

According to Professor Booysen, the new smart water meters function both as a community driver and a useful tool that enables engineers to spot and deal with serious problems, fast.

“Smart water metering not only aids behaviour change due to increased awareness about water consumption‚ it also assists with the prevention of water losses due to leads that would otherwise have gone unnoticed,” he said.

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