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Engineers secure water supply in parched areas of SA.

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The project includes a new weir and abstraction point on the Moses River. Image credit: Ceenex.

26 February 2021 – Engineering Consultancy Ceenex has been appointed as the specialist sub-consultant on a project to help the Thembisile Hani Local Municipality deliver water to parched areas of the Mpumalanga province in South Africa.

Ceenex, a South African engineering consultancy, is assisting Thembisile Hani Local Municipality provide a reliable and secure supply of water to parched areas of Mpumalanga, including Boekenhouthoek, Mathysenloop, Machipe and Bundu.

The company was appointed as the specialist sub-consultant for the water-treatment works (WTW) and pump system design and is working alongside Monde Consulting Engineers, the lead engineer on this project.

This is the largest service-delivery infrastructure project to have ever been undertaken by the municipality. The water-augmentation scheme is being funded by the Municipal Infrastructure Grant and implemented in phases.

This is also Thembisile Hani Local Municipality’s first WTW, which is already supplying over half of the total demand of the planned supply zone at 3 million litres (ML) of water a day. The tender for the construction of the final units for the plant in Bundu is expected to be awarded in the first quarter of 2021 as the project starts drawing to a close.

Initially, Ceenex was involved in the resource study for the availability of surface water sources within the area. Upon conclusion, the findings of the study were incorporated into the water scheme’s masterplan.

Post the resource study, Ceenex was also appointed by the municipality for the design and supervision of the various construction components of the scheme.

These components included the WTW and the new weir and abstraction point on the Moses River. The new weir and abstraction point, with a capacity of 5ML a day, were completed during the first phase of the project. The new infrastructure replaces an existing weir that was initially used for agricultural operations in the area before it was damaged by floods.

Ceenex also supervised the building of a new 10ML command reservoir in Bundu and the construction of sections of the 8km bulk pipeline associated with the scheme.

Water is pumped from the WTW via a rising main into the two Boekenhouthoek B reservoirs. They are connected to the existing pipeline and the new Boekenhouthoek B pipeline that feeds the two Boekenhouthoek A reservoirs. From there, the pipeline feeds the new 10ML command reservoir and two reservoirs in Matheysenloop.

Sarel Holtzhausen, Executive Director of Ceenex, says that, prior to this project, Thembisile Hani Local Municipality did not have its own source of water.

“Our client mainly depended upon other Water Service Authorities for the supply of bulk water. About 55ML of water a day was being sourced from various water suppliers. This included about 15ML a day from the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality; 5ML a day from Dr JS Moroka Local Municipality and 35ML a day from Rand Water Board. Considering operational issues, such as pump failures, the supply was very inconsistent, leaving communities without water for extended periods, especially during the warm summer periods. The situation has also been severely exacerbated by the drought, with water having to sometimes be transported by road tankers to severely affected areas,” Holtzhausen says.

Ensuring a regular supply of water for its constituents has remained a key priority for the municipality and steady progress has been made on the project, since construction commenced in April 2016. This is despite an array of challenges, some of which relate to financing in the municipal environment and the impact of restrictions implemented by national government to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic on most construction projects in the country.

Importantly, Thembisile Hani Local Municipality also wanted the project to create employment and skills development opportunities for members of communities located within the project area. Many emerging, small, medium and micro enterprises have had the opportunity to participate in this project since construction started.

Almost 40 small back-owned contractors with a Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) 1 and 2 grading worked on the construction of the WTW, alone. They were selected under a transparent tender process and mentored by the principal contractor.

Mbako Group, a black-owned contractor, has since taken over the finalisation of the construction of the plant and the training of the many SMMEs appointed to work on this aspect of the water-augmentation project. The contractor’s appointment was based on its stellar performance building the command reservoir.

Holtzhausen says that this project has again provided Ceenex ample opportunity to innovate and to demonstrate its leadership in the design of water infrastructure, especially in rural areas.

“Ceenex has more than 15 years design experience in WTWs and water-augmentation projects in outlying areas of the country. We have completed many of these projects in rural areas of the Eastern Cape and our capabilities allow us to optimise our clients’ infrastructure whilst taking into consideration a host of constraints. Our experience has afforded us the opportunity to fully understand the costs required to maintain and operate such infrastructure in these municipal jurisdictions,” he says.

The WTW incorporates a conventional treatment process to simplify operation.

It uses a high-pressure pumping system that comprises top-of-the-range variable-speed pumps that have been sourced from a local manufacturer, Curo Pumps.

The human-machine interface system was also designed to provide central access to the control system and is easy to operate.

In addition, a novel mechanical rapid gravity sand filter was selected by the team of engineers for the removal of fine suspended solids from the water. The polishing filter does not require an external control system or electrical supply, with the backwash cycle initiated autonomously and driven entirely by built-in hydraulics. This limits operator intervention to periodic maintenance inspections.

Powdered Activated Carbon (PAC) was also incorporated into the treatment process to remove colouring from the water that is being extracted from the Moses River.

The command reservoir also stands out as another sound example of the extent of innovation deployed by the engineering team on this project. Its wall and roof were built from precast-concrete elements to significantly accelerate the delivery of the structure. This unique system was designed in collaboration with Corestruc, a South African precast-concrete specialist. Manufactured at the company’s factory during the earthworks phases, the system was transported to site and installed by Corestruc while working alongside the principal contractor.

Holtzhausen attributes the success of another Ceenex project to excellent dynamics between the engineering teams, contractors, sub-contractors and suppliers, in addition to the many members of the community who have worked on the project since construction started.

“However, much of the credit also needs to go to Thembisile Hani Local Municipality. This is considering the municipality’s willingness to work closely with the professional team to find innovative solutions to unique challenges and its hands-on approach, including acting as an intermediary between the professional team and the many SMMEs on this project to mitigate delays,” he concludes.


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