Green Drops – What it is, RSA wastewater systems scores, and how to achieve a good Green Drop score
The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) recently published the highly anticipated Green Drop Certification Programme Report. In the report, only 23 wastewater systems (22 municipal systems and one private system) achieved the Green Drop Certification status.
The Green Drop report shows the results of all water services authorities in South Africa. This list comprises 995 wastewater networks and treatment works, who were subject to the audit from 1 July 2020, to 30 June 30 2021.
The 23 wastewater systems that were awarded the Green Drop Certificate scored a minimum of 90% against the Green Drop standards. While this is good news for the 23 awarded systems who made the mark, it is astonishingly disappointing to the 37 that lost the Green Drop Certification status they had been awarded in 2013. So, why are we going backwards? What can be done by wastewater systems to improve their scores going forward? We look at this, and more, in this blog.
First, what is Green Drop Certification Status?
The Green Drop Certification Status is a mark of excellence in the wastewater systems sector. An audit is carried out by 24 audit panels comprising two to three qualified wastewater professionals that spans the nearly 1,000 wastewater networks across South Africa:
- 144 water services authorities with 850 systems.
- 12 Department of Public Works (DPW) with 115 systems.
- Five private and State-owned organisations with 30 systems.
All wastewater systems are scored against a set criteria for wastewater management that assesses the entire value chain. The Green Drop audit covers these key performance areas (KPAs):
- Process control, maintenance, and management skills
- Wastewater quality monitoring
- Credibility of wastewater sampling and analysis
- Submission of wastewater quality results
- Wastewater quality compliance
- Management of wastewater quality failures
- Storm-water and water demand management
- By laws
- Capacity and facility to reticulate and treat wastewater
- Publication of wastewater quality performance
- Wastewater asset management
Each KPA has a unique weighting that is applied to results, based on the regulatory priorities.
In South Africa, the Green Drop Certification is given to wastewater systems that achieve scores greater than or equal to 90%. Systems that score below 31% are regarded as dysfunctional, and rapid appropriate interventions will need to be applied.
How are South Africa’s WasteWater Systems doing?
According to the Department of Water and Sanitation, there has been a significant drop in KPA results across the various KPAs measured in 2021 when compared with 2013.
In fact, a significantly high number of municipal wastewater systems are now rated as critical in this report (334 or 39%), compared with 248 (29%) in 2013.
This regression is primarily seen in treatment scores, as well as sewer collection levels.
When we review the state of wastewater systems by province, we see the following:
It would seem that most rural municipalities are struggling. It was difficult for many of these systems to score above 50% (only 5% in Free State and Limpopo), let alone the requisite 90%.
Alarmingly, 102 (89%) out of the 115 Department of Public Works systems were tagged as critical, with a score below 31%, and only two received scores above 50%.
Of the private and State-owned systems, one plant out of the 30 included in the audit was identified as in critical state. Scores above 50% were achieved by 25 of the 30 systems (83%).
The minister of water and sanitation, Senzo Mchunu, said of the findings, “It is of great concern that there are so many systems with scores below 31%, indicating a dismal state of wastewater management, posing a risk to both environment and public health.”
So, how do we fix the problem?
Without looking at extenuating circumstances, according to the latest Green Drop Certification report, it seems that infrastructure and skills shortages are at the heart of the problem.
This means the auditors identified a trend. When there are low levels of investment in infrastructure, and low capacity when it comes to skilled personnel, the wastewater systems were more likely to achieve a critical state score.
It follows, that taking care of the skills shortage and infrastructure and asset neglect (such as pumps and motors), will not only improve Green Drops scores, but will do much to protect the health and wellbeing of the communities these municipalities serve.
Understanding WasteWater Systems
Water supply includes several components, namely the water source, treatment plant, service reservoirs and the distribution system. In order to ensure the reliable supply of quality water to communities and towns, water utilities operate and maintain water treatment plants and distribution networks.
There are many local and international studies that have shown that sustainable water supply is only possible with the correct operational and maintenance procedures.
O&M of WasteWater Systems
Operation and maintenance (O&M) of a water supply system involves all the tasks and activities required for the system to run continuously. This is to provide the necessary service.
The overarching goal of O&M is to ensure a system is efficient, effective and sustainable (Castro et al., 2009).
- Efficient – This means you can accomplish something with the least amount of time, effort and resources wasted.
- Effective – This implies you have successfully produced the intended result.
- Sustainable – You are able to maintain your system at the best level over time.
What is covered in operations
Operation in “O&M” includes the day-to-day activities, processes, and procedures that are incorporated to make sure that the water supply system works efficiently. These tasks are done by technicians and engineers who are responsible to control the functions of the system.
Operations personnel take care of the treatment plants, process units and all the pumps, motors, and facilities (such as offices and laboratories) and these are called the assets. Each asset has its own operating guidelines.
For example, a water pump may not be operated for more hours per day than cited, otherwise it could overheat and eventually fail. The pump should be run long enough to fill the service reservoir, otherwise, there won’t be enough water to distribute to customers.
What is covered in maintenance
Maintenance speaks to the planned technical activities or tasks carried out to make sure assets function effectively. To do so requires skills, tools and spare parts (Carter, 2009).
There are two types of maintenance
- Corrective or breakdown maintenance: Repairs are carried out when pumps or motors fail and stop working. This is often due to poor preventative maintenance.
- Preventive maintenance: This preferred type ofmaintenance is a regular, scheduled maintenance programme that is put in place to prevent breakdowns. It also ensures the asset fulfils its service life. More than that, it prevents emergency breakdowns, expensive repairs, and plant crises. For instance, regularly servicing equipment, checking electrical parts, inspecting equipment for wear and tear, replacing tired or faulty parts, cleaning and greasing moving parts of equipment, etc. Preventive maintenance is important because it ensures that the asset fulfils its service life.
It is strongly advised that treatment plants always make sure there is an adequate level of preventive maintenance in place for all of their assets in the water supply system.
The urgent need for the right skills, talent, and tools
To do preventative maintenance effectively, and to run efficiently, wastewater plants need adequately skilled people to serve as operators or maintenance crew. They also need the right tools to do their jobs properly.
Failing that, they need access to a pump and motor solutions provider who not only has the skills and tools to repair and maintain pumps and motors, but also has the facility to test submersible pumps.
How a good maintenance strategy could help with a good Green Drop score
Wastewater treatment plants that have a strong focus on preventive maintenance could have the upper hand in achieving a good Green Drop Score. More than that, they will save a significant amount of time and costs, avoid service disruptions, and increase their revenue.
How to create a good maintenance strategy
- Plan how maintenance activities will be organised.
- Identify how maintenance will be done – either with own technicians, or outsourcing to skilled technicians, or both.
- Clearly articulate and describe how the assets are expected to run when properly maintained.
- Create supporting documentation, such as a log of parts replaced, inspections made, motor testing results, recording of any incidents, etc.
- Prioritise assets for routine inspection and maintenance – e.g., more important items, such as main pumps, get inspected and maintained more frequently.
Speak to CAW Maintenance and Repair Specialists for Water and Sanitation today!
Did you know that CAW specialises in the repair and refurbishment of pumps and related equipment for water production and transportation?
Plus, we have extensive experience in testing, repairing and maintaining equipment required for wastewater collection and treatment for municipalities.
CAW has decades of experience, the state-of-the art facilities, and in-house expertise and have successfully repaired numerous and various submersible pump sets, including the submersible sewage pumps used by the City of Cape Town.
We have been testing, rewinding and rebuilding motors for municipal water and sanitation facilities for 50 years!
Plus, CAW’s submersible pump test facility- the only one of its kind in the Western Cape – gives you the precise performance of your pump and motor set.
While we might be overreaching to hope all municipalities will achieve 90% by the next audit with these steps, with proper maintenance and management, we can at least hope for 50% or higher!
Here’s to an effective, efficient, sustainable, and hopeful future.