Asset management in the water purification industry

July 31, 2012

Asset Management in the Water Purification Industry – can the ratepayer expect any benefits from the Blue Drop Green Drop initiative that was launched by the Department of Water Affairs?

The old adage “Show me how you measure me and I show you how I perform” certainly holds true in most cases. The Blue Drop Green Drop initiative could potentially be the exception to this old rule, says Olivier.

“Let’s view this in context. The 11 Green Drop Requirements offer a very usable assessment framework for the Quality of Water Purification. Furthermore, when staffed diligently with competent auditors supplied by the Department we certainly have the potential to get an accurate picture of the state of non-compliance, countrywide,” argues Olivier.

Various municipalities and ratepayers around South Africa would argue that there is hard evidence, and enough of it, to draw a smelly picture of the true state of our water purification plants, without the need for yet another accreditation system.

When we view these requirements in detail it is evident that Requirement No. 5 – Effluent Compliance Quality – is by some margin the most important, with specific reference to relevant weight assigned. The fact is that one cannot ignore the all-important thread of equipment (assets), and maintenance and operating procedures contributing towards this Effluent Compliance Quality, hence the inclusion of Requirement No. 11 – Waste Water Asset Management.

“If there then is already convincing evidence of sub-standard purification plants and if the argument that assets and maintenance and operating procedures are important holds true, then the question arises – “Is Government (the Department) not perhaps throwing the incorrect manpower at the wrong end of the problem, the back-side,” questions Olivier.

Procedures are only procedures. Without the personnel to carry out the operating procedures these procedures are mere pieces of paper gathering dust. Without competent resources to perform basic care and maintenance activities on these assets they will soon also become dust- and rust-gathering features in a malfunctioning plant. Equally important are the management systems and the capacity to facilitate optimum operation of these water purification assets towards achieving Effluent Compliance Quality. Or is it towards service delivery…?

There is no substitute for competent knowledgeable manpower that is available and willing to work productively. The hard reality is that these resources are not always available. In these cases we need to be clever and supplement our limited in-house resources with external resources. To do this we need proper information systems to capture the knowledge from a thin base and to enable a multiplication of this through an even thinner execution base.

There is evidence of this in the form of pockets of excellence in the public sector. For example, the Electricity Support Services Department of the City of Cape Town (under the management of Mr Floris Mostert) very recently managed to win a National Productivity award.

“A Blue Drop Green Drop quality rating system certainly has a place and purpose, perhaps a year or two from now. For the sake of Effluent Compliance Quality, for the sake of our environment and for the sake of service delivery, what we need to do is to be smart about how we are using our available skills – for a start,” concludes Olivier.

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