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Water value engineering: Creating sustainable supply for communities

Meeting the current and future water storage needs of South Africa’s rural and urban communities is a top priority, as are future drought countermeasures. Mava Gwagwa, new business and key accounts director, SBS Tanks®, discusses the company’s innovative responses to these challenges.

SBS Tanks’ current strategy for the municipal market is to ensure that every municipality in South Africa understands the advantages of our product line as a flexible solution. At SBS, we offer a turnkey package that brings true value to the end user. Our tanks have been engineered to last well beyond 60 years, with minimal maintenance. This means that municipal budgets are responsibly spent.

This doesn’t apply only to South Africa. SBS exports globally and has an expanding presence in key public and private sector markets that include the USA.

Tank applications

Mining is one of the most aggressive environments and puts any product to the test. Our tanks meet the most exacting requirements in this area and that means that our products are field-proven for virtually every other application. SBS’s liners, which form an integral part of the tank system design, range from normal potable requirements to leachate and wastewater applications.

Our tanks have also been widely used in the waste management industry, because they can store leachate from dump runoffs and other waste management sites, assisting in the client’s requirements for stench control.

Mava Gwagwa, New business and key accounts director, SBS Tanks

Mava Gwagwa, New business and key accounts director, SBS Tanks

Public sector offering

For the public sector, we specialise in containing brackish water or wastewater for further processing. One of our flagship wastewater projects is the ongoing relationship we have with Sembcorp Siza Water in Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal. Sembcorp extracts water from two sources: the local river system and processed wastewater. In November 2016, we provided a 1 Mℓ temporary storage solution to meet Sembcorp’s requirements over the December season, following a major tank failure on a non-SBS tank. Sembcorp sells its potable water to the local municipalities, so the implications were severe.

SBS replaced the failed tank with the 1 Mℓ SBS tank in just four days, and then installed an additional 2 Mℓ and 3.3 Mℓ tank as per client requirements.

Storage for communities

We advise on the best outcome for communities. Sometimes, this solution involves the interconnection of our tanks with existing supplies. At other times, it’s a standalone installation for rural communities outside the existing municipal grid. Often, the initial enquiry by municipalities is the starting point for a proactive discussion that ends with the final best outcome, after exploring all the other alternatives. Here, we pride ourselves on providing objective professional advice based on our value engineering philosophy.

Our goal is to lower the cost for municipalities – e.g. by optimising gravity-fed systems, thereby reducing pump station and pipeline installations. Multiple smaller tanks can also be installed at higher elevations.

To achieve this, SBS provides site assessment services to assist municipalities and consulting engineers with the best tank system location and layout. SBS also runs a series of annual roadshows at  municipalities, which are also attended by contractors and consultants.

Our smallest tank is 12 Kℓ (12 000 litres). However, because we’re modular, the capacity can be incrementally expanded. In other words, we can customise the volume, scalable up to a 3.3 Mℓ capacity, given available construction footprints.

Steel vs concrete

In terms of cost impact and time, steel tanks are far faster to build when compared to concrete reservoirs, without compromising capacity. A 3 Mℓ concrete reservoir would typically take around 18 months to complete; an SBS installation of the same capacity could be commissioned in about 40 days. When it comes to municipal strategy, this is obviously a highly persuasive argument and we constantly reinforce the benefits through our national workshops.

On another note, SBS is often appointed to remediate concrete reservoirs that experience major leakages. Here, we install the same PVC liner we employ in our own tanks.

Rural solutions

Many of our municipal projects are incremental and ongoing. Examples include the Sol Plaatje District in Kimberley, as well as in Aliwal North, both in the Northern Cape. At Sol Plaatje, SBS’s installations comprised of two 2.5 Mℓ tanks for potable water supply via municipal reticulation.

As for solutions aimed at informal settlements, SBS Tanks is engaged with municipalities and they are aware of what we can do. After many successful installations, we’re positive that further opportunities will be forthcoming.

These systems can also be metered, whether powered by solar or the grid, via telematics that record elements like consumption, inflow, outflow, level and even water temperature – so there are definite benefits for community projects.

Rainwater harvesting

We are especially proud of the meaningful impact our product can make when used for rainwater harvesting, having even installed our own system at our Pinetown facility. The solution is highly sustainable and every building, public or private, should have a rainwater harvesting system. So far, we’ve installed systems at a number of companies and schools in KwaZulu-Natal, who benefit from saving on toilet water.

Future opportunities

While ongoing drought has unfortunately taken its toll on the country, it has opened up a number of opportunities for water storage. Desalination, for instance, whether for seawater or inland brackish water, is a definite consideration now, despite its relatively high cost compared to conventional treatment. Cities like Cape Town have already started desalination projects as a critical drought intervention. That presents opportunities for steel tank reservoirs (before and after treatment), especially given their speed of installation.

At SBS Tanks, we have a vision of seeing our tanks filled, working and delivering water to all communities in need of reliable stored water. Making that happen comes down to building lasting partnerships with our public and private sector stakeholders. For SBS, we are proud to say that we deliver in terms of local and international quality and ISO standards and specifications.

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