Water Utilities’ optic fibre takes a knock

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

The Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) in Botswana suffered a severe blow over the weekend after one of its major pipelines to the city of Gaborone had a knock on its optic fibre network. The line that carries water from the northern Letsibogo dam to the city was impacted when construction workers working along the grid accidentally infringed on the optic fibre network setup and caused a shortage of water supply to the already water-starved city of Gaborone.

Gaborone dam is operating at only 4% capacity with very little inflows coming into the giant dam during this rainy season, which is also the worst in decades.

Speaking during television news briefing, the corporation’s head of communication and public relations Matida Mmipi said the weekend incident “had left the city dry.”  “We experienced a problem where our optic fibre network was disturbed and we can’t pump water from Letsibogo dam to Gaborone.”

Mmipi said employees at her organisation had in the meantime resorted to doing the job manually. “It will take time to switch to the usual way of operating. Working manually cannot compare to doing the job with the help of technology. However we hope to take the shortest possible time. We do have a little water that come from the little other feeder dams flowing into the Gaborone dam currently,” she explained. She said the city will have water but it will be sporadic.

Fibre optic sensors offer a more accurate, robust level of monitoring for desalination plants.  Salinity sensors play an important role in assuring control of the desalination process. If not checked, a degraded membrane can affect the quality of the water produced and may require intense chemical cleaning or membrane replacement, increasing the costs of treatment plants. But current sensor models are bulky, vulnerable to corrosion and typically require a power supply at each sensor node. The fibre optic sensors are the same thickness as a human hair.

“The sensors meet the required industry standard and can capture temperature, flow rate, pressure and salt passage,” said a water engineering expert.


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