Resource management

Sustainable management of water resources calls for smart solutions

The International Water Association (IWA) estimates that of a projected global population of 9.7 billion people by 2050, 66% will reside in urban areas. One in five people is threatened by floods, while 40% of the world’s population is affected by water scarcity.

“We really need to think differently about the future of water. Our goal as Zutari is to co-create a water engineering solutions footprint that reframes innovation, sustainability and resilience from an African perspective,” comments Neeren Govender, Client Director, Water , within the leading engineering and infrastructure consulting firm.

Climate change is putting increasing pressure on current surface water users across the African continent. “Groundwater offers a resilient solution for adapting to climate change,” says Govender. Future-proof water infrastructure in partnership with governments and communities is essential to ensure that water solutions are practical in a local context. Zutari continues to embrace the spirit of innovation in his role as a thought leader to improve water security across Africa for future generations.

As a civil engineer with over 20 years of experience in the water industry, Govender’s career spans a range of multi-disciplinary water-related projects, from concept design to master planning, design and construction supervision and ultimately commissioning and operation. “The reason I’m so passionate about this sector is the impact we have on the communities we work with and the tangible difference we make to their quality of life.”

Through legacy companies such as Africon and Ninham Shand, Zutari has nearly 90 years of experience in the water industry. This includes the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), originally conceived by the legacy company Ninham Shand in the 1950s. The company was involved in the feasibility studies undertaken in the 1970s and the design and construction of phase I in the 1980s and 1990s. Zutari is currently involved in the design of the infrastructure for phase ll of the LHWP, which remains the largest water transfer system in Africa.

Zutari’s water services cover all market sectors in which it is involved, from transportation to energy, government, health, education, real estate and land development and resources and manufacturing . Much of its work falls within the government sector, from municipalities to local, provincial and national authorities, to public and private water utilities. Its scope extends to Africa and the Middle East, where it carries out key water-related projects.

Zutari has been involved in various iconic water infrastructure solutions across the continent including Berg River Dam, Lower Thukela Bulk Water Scheme, Olifants River Water Resources Development Scheme , the Mokolo Crocodile Water Scheme, the Maguga Dam in Eswatini, the Kashimbila Multipurpose Dam and Hydropower Project in Nigeria, the Shire River Basin Management Scheme in Malawi, the Water and Climate Resilience in Kenya and the Nile Basin Initiative – Pilot Application of the Nile Basin Decision Support System.

In terms of capabilities and expertise, Zutari focuses on water resources planning and management, ranging from urban areas to multi-basin studies and also includes large dam and hydropower projects. Another specialty is bulk transport, collection and distribution of wastewater and rainwater in particular. On the treatment side, it is able to offer advanced process technologies for reuse and desalination, as well as for the treatment of dirty or industrial water and biosolids. On the advisory side, Zutari offers solutions for climate change and sustainability, which is a key objective for the water sector in Africa.

“It definitely gives us a head start in the market. From an African perspective, we not only have an extensive network of offices and resources, but also partners in various countries. This ensures that we have a large team of multidisciplinary water specialists who can apply their local knowledge and technical expertise on a range of projects across the continent,” says Govender. Additionally, Zutari has extensive international experience as far away as Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia.

Large parts of Africa range from arid to semi-arid, relying solely on groundwater for their livelihoods and economic vitality. “As the population and economy of these regions grow, it will be necessary to advocate and promote the sustainable management and protection of this limited resource. The ability to use and reuse this precious resource as part of the circular economy is key to securing the livelihoods of future generations,” says Govender.

The impact of smart infrastructure on the water sector has led Zutari to develop cutting-edge digital capabilities that encompass the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0. She has extensive experience working with the latest industrial automation and instrumentation technologies, which she deploys for improved infrastructure performance and real-time visibility. Zutari has developed innovative data mining tools for advanced analytics to help clients with strategic decision making and long term planning.

One trend is to apply the digital twin operational concept to water infrastructure. For example, if a water system needs improvement, the impact of any changes can be visualized in the digital replica to best optimize the process and convey lessons or insights to the real world. Zutari has developed energy recovery tools that can help water utilities not only optimize their energy consumption, but also assess the feasibility of waste-to-energy projects, where the energy potential of wastewater can be converted into biogas, for example.

Booming urban populations and the uncertainty surrounding climate change present a significant challenge for the water sector. “Water is the source of life, the most widely used resource and a commodity with intrinsic value. Our collective future depends on its sustainable use and the preservation of water resources. As water managers, we need to focus on smart, sustainable and resilient water infrastructure solutions,” concludes Govender.