Home Features Is desalination the key to the water future in Africa?

Is desalination the key to the water future in Africa?

Victaulic believes that alternate pipe joining systems will ensure optimal productivity of these vital projects

Recent droughts experienced have caused much of the country to be deemed somewhat of a disaster zone, and with the dreaded Day Zero imminent, the only solution appears to be a manner in which to utilize the country’s only constant water source – the ocean.

“As a predominantly semi-arid country, South Africa boasts in excess of 2500km of coastline,” explains Marcel Ley, Regional Manager Victaulic South Africa – the leading global mechanical pipe joining System Company.

“Future-thinkers should be considering the ocean as an abundant water supply, following suit with countless countries across the globe. This said, numerous nations see less rainfall and have fewer resources than ours, and have taken it upon themselves to explore alternative sources of water such as desalination.”

With the rapid pace at which Cape Town’s desalination program has had to be implemented, Ley says this presents opportunities for companies such as Victaulic to employ their expertise, offering their customers a superior and reliable product range, which can be installed quickly and with minimal assembly training, in order to optimize construction productivity, ensuring that projects are completed safely, on time, and within budget.

What is Desalination?

Desalination is a technology that is far from new, and has in fact been around from centuries. A variety of references can be found as far back as the writings of Aristotle in 320AD, and is a practice widely used at sea to enable mariners to survive on long ocean trips. In fact, a typical nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier today uses waste reactor heat to desalinate 1,5-million liters of water per day.

According to the International Desalination Association, as of June 2015, a total of 18 426 desalination plants are in operation worldwide, producing 86,8-million cubic meters of water per day, providing clean drinking water for some 300-million people.

Observe the drought that impacted Israel a few years ago, labelled as the worst in over 900 years, with the nation quickly running out of water. Israel now boasts as much as 55% of its water from its Sorek desalination plant, and has transformed one of the world’s driest countries into the unlikeliest of water champions.

“Keeping in mind that a temporary solution has been found, we have to also consider the possibility of a problem arising in terms of pipe leakage due to incorrect materials or inadequate joining methods taking preference of what has been proven to work in other successful projects,” says Ley.

“We partner with reputable major water contractors around the globe such as our involvement in Israel’s Sorek plant, and on a local scale, we deal largely with Veolia Water, the company that built the country’s largest desalination plant in Mossel Bay”.

Hoover Dam and the Santa Barbara desalination plant

With the business dating back to 1919, Victaulic’s expertise can be seen in multiple projects around the globe. With a focus on water management, its systems have been used in developments such as the Hoover Dam and the Santa Barbara desalination plant. The company’s expertise have successfully proven their worth.

Conventionally, piping was joined by methods of welding to ensure a near water-tight fit. This however, according to Victaulic studies, requires up to 50% more man hours on average over the use of grooved couplings and fittings.

“Unlike a welded system a mechanical pipe joining system can easily be taken apart and the same parts can be reassembled,” he continues.

“The initial installation of the Victaulic system is about five times faster than welding, but when welded systems need to be reworked, the Victaulic system can be ten times faster. Moreover, the couplings require minimal expertise to install, and allow for pipe misalignment, greatly reducing the time and expert costs associated. This is hugely beneficial to instances such as the rapid pace at which Cape Town’s desalination plants have been built.”

Ley reiterates the importance of partnering with a reputable brand, and asserts the cost associated with maintenance welding versus the simplification of replacing a coupling when the need arises.

“In a situation such as the one the cape regions find themselves in at present, one cannot simply afford to waste water due to preventable situations such as leaks and that is why it is vitally important to ensure quality pipe joining systems are used to minimize leakage”, he comments.

“According to the 2017 GreenCape market intelligence report, as much as 37% of South Africa’s water supply is lost through leaks across multiple cities. Imagine the amount of surplus water we as a country could have if solutions and preventative measures are instilled.”

Victaulic are currently working on a number of projects with various water consultants such as PCI Africa, Prentec, Grahamtek, and Proxa Water to name a few.

Yvonne Andiva
Editor/ Business Developer at Group Africa Publishing Ltd

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