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Drone Technology to Improve Municipal Finance and Resource Planning in uMhlathuze, South Africa

What are the reasons if cities experience a big discrepancy between their calculated water demand and actual water consumption? Non-revenue water through leakages? Illegal water connections? A mistake in the calculations?​

In 2019, the City of uMhlathuze experienced exactly this problem. A gap analysis commissioned by NatuReS confirmed the urgent need for the municipality to act on the improvement of water supply to traditionally managed areas, while decrease the unbilled consumption. To meet this objective, two pilot studies were undertaken, using drone technology to measure population increase, calculate average per capita water consumption, understand the extent of water losses and improve planning. All this aimed at increasing water supply.​

children around a drone
Children of the community of Gobandluvo are educated about the purpose of a drone for improved water security.
Copyright: Dawid Dierks

Increase water supply by gathering data from drone images

The village of Gobandluvo and Vulindlela were chosen as pilot areas to determine the population and subsequent water demand, using Remote Pilot Aircraft System (RPAS) technology, also known as drone technology.

Aerial photos of Gobandluvo were compiled from autonomous drone flight information, indicating the most recent developments. The aerial photos were geo-referenced over the existing zonal areas, as well as over the two project focus areas. From these photos, the represented structures were counted and divided into the following categories: households, rental rooms, student housing and schools. This information was then used to calculate the theoretical water demand and compared to the actual water demand in the area.

Findings guide targeted interventions

The findings of the investigation highlighted that the population had increased dramatically from the most recent census in 2011, which consequently influenced the water demand calculations. The area of Gobandlovu, marked as “High Water Loss Area”, requiring a high priority for water conservation intervention, was found to be close to expected water consumption per capita standards. However, the population of Gobandlovu was three times higher than the 2011 census. The municipality had assumed that the area had a high per-capita consumption, which it didn’t. Simply, the size of the population in the area had tripled and with it the water demand. An additional problem was the number of illegal and unbilled connections, which have a negative fiscal impact on the municipality.

With the obtained information gained from drone technology, the municipality can now decide on targeted actions to e.g. reduce illegal connections or upgrade the infrastructure to meet communities’ demand.

Aerial photos taken by drones can generate important information about illegal structures along rivers, invasive plant species etc.
Copyright: GIZ/Jesper Anhede

The way forward

As the pilot intervention represented a big success, NatuReS donated a drone to the municipality and is supporting three municipal officials in obtaining their drone licenses. This will help the municipality to carry out similar exercises in other areas, and additionally use the drone for more interventions like:

  • Leak detection – using infrared camera
  • Point leak detection – for high level reservoirs
  • River flow investigation – discover illegal structures
  • Surveillance over invasive plant species
  • Population count
  • Construction management progress reports
  • Spillage identification
  • Quantity survey

This will tremendously improve the service delivery and development planning for communities, as well as water demand management, budgetary planning and water loss reduction in the City of uMhalthuze.

The 7th South African Annual Water Stewardship Conference: Water Stewardship in Action – A journey to economic recovery

invite to water stewardship conference

On 23rd and 24th of November, the 7th Annual Water Stewardship Conference will bring together virtually representatives from government, industry, civil society and development partners to explore how investments in South Africa’s water sector can be leveraged to generate sustained economic growth, employment, and wellbeing.

Jointly hosted by the Strategic Water Partners Network (SWPN), GIZ’s Natural Resources Stewardship Programme (NatuReS), the Royal Danish Embassy and the National Business Initiative (NBI) with the support of the Department for Water and Sanitation (DWS), the event builds on the momentum of last year’s consultations which focused on ‘Strengthening the Water Value Chain through Partnerships’.    

This year’s topic of “Water Stewardship in Action: A journey to economic recovery” will unpack what needs to be done to create robust governance for sustainable economic recovery and which water investments are needed to support a post-COVID green recovery.

The conference will be organised around two inter-related sessions where representatives from government, private sector and civil society will discuss these critical topics, offering not only different perspectives but also working towards joint solutions to address these pertinent challenges.

You can sign up for the event here.

The Value of Water in the Nelson Mandela Bay Area

Drought and scarcity of water can have devastating impacts on the social and economic development of a region, as can be seen in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province, which is suffering from an ongoing drought and water crisis. In order to shed light on the impacts and evaluate different mitigation scenarios, the Natural Resources Stewardship Programme (NatuReS) as part of the Nelson Mandela Bay Water & Economic Resilience Partnership commissioned the Toulouse School of Economics (TSE) to analyse the impact of water scarcity and effects of different mitigation scenarios on economic growth and human wellbeing for the Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) area and South Africa as a whole. The macroeconomic study found, by using a Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) Model, that improving water saving and reducing non-revenue water will have the most positive effects in terms of GDP and employment, while other measures such as water pricing and reuse and desalination will have little or no positive effects. Not addressing water scarcity will have the most negative effects with a decrease of GDP and loss of jobs.

Aerial view of the Nelson Mandela Bay area. Copyright: Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber

Apart from knowing about the impacts of scarcity, it is also very important to identify the most suitable areas for catchment restoration and management activities. Therefore, NatuReS within the framework of the Nelson Mandela Bay Water & Economic Resilience Partnership and the Algoa Bay Water Fund commissioned the economic consultancy StratEcon to do a comparative analysis of the three Eastern Cape catchments Kouga, Kromme and Baviaanskloof regarding their macroeconomic and water profiles. This way, the most attractive one to potential funders for restoration and catchment management activities should be identified. By firstly conducting a baseline study of the physical and economic environments of the catchments and subsequently calculating a multicriteria decision analysis (MCDA), the Kouga catchment was identified as the most suitable for potential funders.

These findings shall help to inform policymakers and funders to focus their endeavours on the right measures to address the water security challenges in NMB. NatuReS aims to support solutions that improve water security, ensure livelihood strategies and safeguard economic investment through a natural resource stewardship approach, while protecting upstream landscape integrity. For this, the two comprehensive studies were concisely summarised and published as informative brochures to promote stewardship in the Nelson Mandela Bay area and beyond. Please find the brochure “The economic impacts of water insecurity” here and “Economic Baseline and Comparative Analysis” here.

Building Adaptive Capacities in Zambia’s Communities to fight COVID-19

The global Covid-19 pandemic has presented an unprecedented threat to humanity. It has gravely toppled life as previously known, evolving from a massive health crisis to an economic and social one with devastating outcomes. While many developing countries like Zambia continue to deploy mechanisms and interventions to try to mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic, these have not been enough to offset the pandemic’s impact. The top-down approaches have been disempowering to local grassroots actors with little or no emphasis on building local capacity for sustainable community-driven solutions and outcomes.

Small glimpse into the lives of community leaders and members in vulnerable communities as they narrate their experiences and the effects of Covid-19 on their wellbeing and livelihood. This video was produced by the Zambia Institute of Mass Communications (ZAMCOM) for Lusaka Water Security Initiative (LuWSI) and Lusaka City Council (LCC) with funding from NatuReS. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the BMZ, European Union or FCDO.

In seeking to “Build Back Better”, NatuReS Zambia supported the Lusaka Water Security Initiative (LuWSI) in strengthening community voice and action. LuWSI has coordinated activities that aim to promote and strengthen the response to COVID-19 prevention in communities. These efforts led by Lusaka City Council (LCC) in collaboration with Zambia Institute of Mass Communications (ZAMCOM) and Zambia Social Forum (ZAMSOF) have culminated in the development of a framework for monitoring COVID-19 response activities and capacity building, as well as COVID-19 response plans for five wards in Lusaka. A communication strategy was also developed to build capacity and create networks between journalists and communities for profiling community COVID-19 stories, including a training manual for citizen journalism.

As NatuReS Zambia, we believe in strengthening governance and supporting projects like these for a participatory approach to safeguarding the well-being of all.

Guiding Documents developed to build adaptive capacities in communities
Guiding documents developed to build adaptive capacities in communities.

Author: Sonile Mutafya, NatuReS Advisor, Zambia