Water Week: will the next big conflicts in Africa be on water usage?

Strong focus on water at African Utility Week in May

“The next big conflicts in Africa will be on water usage” was the chilling prediction made earlier this year by the recently departed Dr Lawrence Musaba of the Southern African Power Pool and last year’s recipient of the African Utility Week Lifetime Achievement Award.

“The food-energy-water nexus is becoming a challenge for Africa”, Dr Musaba said, “and African energy pioneers should find a way of how to deal with this dilemma as the population of Africa keeps growing. The demand for water and food is growing, but at the same time we need electricity from hydropower stations to power the industry and as a result, the scramble for water is becoming a huge challenge.”

South Africa’s National Water Week kicked off earlier this week and will culminate in the final international World Water Day on 22 March.

“Water, while once an abundant natural resource, has become a scarce and therefore more valuable commodity due to droughts and overuse”, says African Utility Week event director Evan Schiff, adding: “effective and innovative water management is fundamental to ensuring the optimum use of our water resources and how technical innovation can improve water delivery. Water utilities have to explore both innovative and alternative water supply options in order to meet rapid growth in urban demand, including wastewater reuse, grey water recycling, storm water, rain water harvesting and seawater desalination.”

Strong focus on all aspects of water
This year’s African Utility Week in Cape Town in May will have a particularly strong focus on water, from the water-energy nexus, resource management, water efficiency to wastewater management.

Here are some of the featured experts who will address the conference sessions:

• “All current major challenges are connected and interdependent. The pressures posed on populations by floods, droughts, water pollution and the need for fresh water intertwine with the basic needs for food, energy and income.”
- Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs, Kingdom of the Netherlands, and featured keynote speaker at African Utility Week.

• “South Africa’s non-revenue water losses is costing approximately R7-billion a year”
- Dr Nicole Kranz, Country Coordinator South Africa: International Water Stewardship Programme, GIZ-South Africa

• “The water-energy nexus is complex and wide-ranging. Water and energy affect all other sectors, are critical to the economy and human wellbeing. In order to ensure water and energy access for all, the resources will have to be managed in an integrated manner to capitalize on efficiencies and synergies.”
- Dr Diego J. Rodriguez, Senior Economist, World Bank, USA

• “Drinking water utilities have the potential to steer development towards the sustainability road. This is because water drives other sectors like energy and food supply”
- Pauline Macharia, PhD fellow, Technische Universität Wien.

• “The application of Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) requires a systems approach whereby engineers, urban planners and environmental scientists work together in a manner which integrates the multiple facets of managing water to promote a greater awareness and sensitivity to its needs.”
- Jason Mingo, Berg River Task Manager at Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning.

• "For Africa’s economies to prosper and to improve the living standards of the inhabitants there is a need to invest more in energy and water supply infrastructure. But most importantly, access to energy and water must be affordable. Hence the need for cost effective tariffs for those two commodities."
- Dr Vaino P Shivute, CEO, Namibia Water Corporation

• “Every individual who acknowledges that we are facing a national water disaster if we do not turn this ship around, can play some role in conserving the water resources”
- Gerardt P. Viljoen, Systems Executive at Sensus

• “We need to find new and innovative solutions to old problems. It is simply not enough to do what we always did.”
- Titus Cohen Kasie, Mechanical Engineer, eThekwini Water and Sanitation (EWS) & Centre of Expertise.

• “Seawater desalination provides an alternate source of potable water to the conventional surface and groundwater options, with the major advantage that it is drought proof.”
- Steve Gilham, General Manager: Engineering & Scientific Services at Umgeni Water and advisory board member of African Utility Week.

• “The Water – Energy – Food nexus has become a ‘buzzword’ in sustainability circles.The interconnections between these three vital commodities are increasingly recognised. Previously, research on the production of the Water – Energy – Food nexus has largely been in isolation”
- Mr Dhesigen Naidoo, CEO, Water Research Commission – supporting association.

• “Africa as a continent has the lowest share of the world’s total freshwater resources with an estimate of only about 9% and there are also large disparities among countries, and also between the urban and rural areas.”
- Dr. Eng Silver Mugisha, MD, National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) – the utility also won the coveted African Water Utility of the Year Award at last year’s 2015 African Utility Week Awards in Cape Town.

The full interviews with our experts are available on the event website: www.african-utility-week.com/expertinterviews

African Utility Week
The 16th African Utility Week and Clean Power Africa conference and trade exhibition returns to Cape Town from 17-19 May – gathering some 6000 engineers, stakeholders and solution providers from around the globe.

The event will feature 250 exhibitors, 250 speakers, a six stream strategic conference, a free-to-attend technical conference on the expo floor, three high-profile keynote sessions, technical site visits and the coveted industry awards gala dinner. The Water CEO Forum will be an opportunity to discuss challenges and share best practice for high-level water utility executives.

The African Utility Week Industry Awards also include categories for Water Utility Executive of the Year, Water Utility of the Year, Water Efficiency Project of the Year and Power/Water Woman of the Year where pioneering water utilities and innovative projects in the sector are recognised and celebrated.

The trade exhibition will be free when registering in advance and showcase water and energy saving technologies and services for the industry, including by global water sector giants such as Sensus, Accenture, Kamstrup and Elster Solutions and feature hands-on demonstrations and CPD-accredited technical workshops on the exhibition floor.

African Utility Week and Clean Power Africa are organised by Spintelligent, leading Cape Town-based trade exhibition and conference organiser, and the African office of Clarion Events Ltd, based in the UK. The event forms part of a global energy event series, including European Utility Week, Australian Utility Week, Asian Utility Week and Latin American Utility Week. Other African flagship events in Spintelligent’s power portfolio are East African Power Industry Convention (EAPIC), West African Power Industry Convention (WAPIC), iPAD Rwanda Power & Mining Investment Forum and iPAD Cameroon Energy & Infrastructure Forum.