Quenching the thirst for water in Botswana

ABB's automation technology - part of its solutions that cover all segments of the water cycle - is contributing to Botswana's major North-South Carrier water infrastructure project.


In this landlocked country of around two million people, the climate is arid, rainfall is not always dependable and droughts may last for several years. Furthermore, while reservoirs exist in the northeast, demand for this resource is growing fastest in the southeast around the capital city of Gaborone, where the population is expanding. Alongside this, mining activities are increasing, a major contributor to Botswana's now thriving economy.

"Water is far more than just a commodity in Botswana, and access to it is not something you can take for granted. The North-South Carrier has allowed this country to make great progress, but there are still people who have to walk to reach a water supply," says Kevin Kosisko, Managing Director of the Power Generation & Water business, part of ABB's Industrial Automation division.

This reflects a rising global demand for water: for example, since 1950 the need for this resource has trebled and it will double again by 2050. Meanwhile, a sixth of the global population does not have access to safe water. Underlining its importance to both health and economic development, the availability of water for all is included in number six of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. "Many people in developed countries don't understand what it means not to have water. For people in African communities, gaining such access is one of the biggest accomplishments they will see in their lives," Kosisko states.

Build it and water will come
Under the Botswana National Water Master Plan, a huge-scale water infrastructure project - the North-South Carrier - was launched in the mid-1990s. Broken down into two phases, the first of these (NSC-1) was completed in 2000 and saw the Letsibogo Dam constructed in the country's northeast along with an approximately 360-kilometer pipeline to carry the water south to Gabarone, as well as pumping stations, treatment plants and other infrastructure. The percentage of people with access to safe drinking water rose from 77 percent to 96 percent between 1996 and 2006.

The second phase (NSC-2) is now ongoing, and will duplicate the pipeline to carry water from the new Dikgatlhong Dam, which was completed in 2012. ABB has already been involved in an earlier package of this second phase, which is now complete, supplying a power and automation solution for a new water pipeline and pump station.

"There were certainly learnings from the first project," Kosisko explains. "Our professionalism and commitment won us a follow-on order." ABB is now involved in executing another package, which is planned for completion next year. The scope of supply includes ABB Ability™ Symphony® Plus distributed control system (DCS), an instrumentation package and other power equipment.

ABB Ability Symphony Plus is especially tailored for the water and power industries. It is part of a portfolio of automation, instrumentation and electrification solutions for water plants and networks, covering all segments of the water cycle, offered by ABB's Power Generation & Water business. This leading DCS can boast over 400 water, wastewater and desalination installations worldwide.

"The supply of water is very important in Botswana. Our customers need to have a strong partner who is able to deliver, offers the latest technology and has already gained crucial experience. Projects like this show the full potential of advanced automation for all communities dealing with rapid expansions or aging infrastructures," comments Kosisko.

Change for the future
Availability of water and economic development are closely linked on numerous levels. There are decent jobs linked to water management in both the developed and developing world; moreover, access to safe drinking water and sanitation protects people from disease and allows them to attend school or work without disruption, leading to higher education and employment, which are the foundation for growth.

According to a 2016 UN World Water Development report, investment in small-scale projects providing access to safe water and basic sanitation in Africa could offer an estimated economic return of about $28.4 billion a year, or nearly five percent of gross domestic product (GDP) of the continent.

"If there's no water, there's no development," Kosisko sums up. "But once there's water, electricity is the next step. When a community has these two 'commodities', it can set up small industries, and this might make a community become independent which would change lives. These are milestones in humanity, and it is important to be part of the evolution of humanity."

ABB is a leading provider of integrated power and automation solutions with unparalleled experience in partnering with the energy and water industries, bringing them improved operations and sustainable progress. We deliver integrated and secure digital systems, services and solutions to automate and optimize the performance of conventional and renewable power plants and water facilities.

ABB (ABBN: SIX Swiss Ex) is a pioneering technology leader in electrification products, robotics and motion, industrial automation and power grids, serving customers in utilities, industry and transport & infrastructure globally. Continuing a history of innovation spanning more than 130 years, ABB today is writing the future of industrial digitalization with two clear value propositions: bringing electricity from any power plant to any plug and automating industries from natural resources to finished products. As title partner of Formula E, the fully electric international FIA motorsport class, ABB is pushing the boundaries of e-mobility to contribute to a sustainable future. ABB operates in more than 100 countries with about 135,000 employees. www.abb.com


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