NRW is above 45% in Sub-Saharan Africa utilities. Can new technology plus staff motivation reduce its apparent loss part
I believe technology and staff motivation are two issues that should be dealt separately.
However they both need to be dealt with.
Technology and methods for leak detection are quite well known and documented:
- technologies : remotely read water meters, direct noise detection, noise correlation, mobile or fixed noise loggers, gaz detection, ground radar… The best technology merely depends on the type of pipes and ground.
- methods : reduce the area of detection using well located water meters, reduce it further through valves operations (best done nightly to evaluate the actual leakage per area) then use a combination of the best technology given the context..
Though it is probably not necessary for leak detection staff to use all of the above equipment, it is also clear that aiming for 20% or less NRW requires the acquisition of several complementary equipments.
However the first step is always to split the water network into sub-networks by using bulk water meters.
Then I believe that staff & staff motivation are key issues.
Staff : any motivated staff that has been trained can use any detection tools for effective field work.
However for extended water networks it is best to include within the team a few people with higher levels of study, which would be able to go through basic maths, have a sense of simple physics (noise correlation, gaz expansion within pipes, ground radar can otherwise sometimes be misinterpreted), and be confident with computer since most of the equipment needs configuration upload or data download and processing.
Aiming for drastic reduction of NRW clearly needs to build-up of a strategy and prior analysis that needs those competencies within the team.
Staff Motivation : I will only give my own experience in that matter.
There are probably basic needs to provide such as decent salaries, high management support for leak detection, documented targets…
The best leak detection staff I’ve known have a not explicit yet perceptible aura within the company. This certainly comes from several situations:
- The leak detection teams are quite autonomous, analyzing the daily data and deciding of their forthcoming program. Night detection, though exhausting also contributes to that form of autonomy.
- The mastery of most equipments are not given to anyone. It is well known that one has to have a clear ear for leak detection.
- Though not numerous compared to other activities, the leak detection team constitute one backbone of the company (though not yet recognized as such where NRW is above 45%…)
- They have a clear understanding of field matters and have abilities for analysis which make some of the leak detection staff potential future managers… At the least they contribute in the strategic planning for leak detection, and daily provide work to the repair teams.
- Last, whereas most of the other staff do processed jobs, leak detection is always uncertain and the team members always come back with either proudness for having succeeded or otherwise quite disappointed. Sustaining this feeling of proudness is one key for motivating most leak detection staff.
In that regard providing global staff incentive on NRW reduction would contribute to have the entire company staff supporting the leak detection team success, and increasing the proudness of team doing their job.