W&S Africa: July/August 2014
Panel Discussion: Precision Meters (Pty) Ltd.
Michael Hardman Chief marketing officer.
How does South Africa measure up in terms of water meters installed and technology suited to end use compared to the rest of Africa and other developing nations?
MH Regarding South Africa in terms of basic water meters installed for RDP housing and the catch up we are attempting to do to the housing backlog, I think we are not as far as we could have been. I think, generally, we are ahead of our neighbours in Africa technology-wise, taking into account that most water meter technology emanates from Europe or the East. Regarding the use of new meter technology, we are way behind Europe and the rest of the world. I also believe that a lot of the technology that is used, at present, in certain areas is not correctly thought through and that some companies will sell anything into the market to make a buck without any care or after sales service. One needs to follow up their business deals with good after sales care and technical help.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing this industry today?
The unacceptable attitude of late or non-payment of construction products supplied to some utilities throughout the country. This is a serious problem that creates an economic domino effect throughout the industry. I believe that the water meter industry is not united enough and that too many products are thrown into the market without any forethought and then sold to end users who, without technical knowledge, unwittingly spend huge budgets on the wrong products. The knock-on effect is wasted man hours and money spent. Lastly, theft in our industry of brass components is a major concern. We are not keeping up with basic and essential river-water cleaning in our country and the imminent fracking in the Karoo is questionable regarding groundwater. The unpredictable rand and labour unrest at the mines is detrimental to many industries and water meter manufacturers are no exception.
How do water meters help to conserve water, especially in a water-stressed country such as South Africa?
Water meters do not conserve water, but rather monitor the ﬂow of water to the end user. There are cases in rural areas in South Africa where communal stand pipes are installed with water meters and the taps are left on with water running 24/7. The actual conservation of water is a far bigger issue in that its more to do with building dams, looking after our rivers and making people aware of the need to conserve what we have.
Please give me a breakdown of your product and how it ﬁts into the development of a working and up-to-date water infrastructure plan in Southern and South Africa.
Precision Meters carries a complete range of mechanical, domestic and bulk, as well as electronic domestic and bulk, meters. It is dependent on the quality of water and ﬂow rate that will decide on what meters to use in different conditions. Our domestic meters, which are type approved, and having a SANAS-accredited laboratory in Cape Town help us ﬁt the bill for local South African RDP projects at reasonable prices. Our agricultural meters for farms and electromags for mines all play a part in the present infrastructure with the forethought to many more advances in the future from our company.
Do you have a unique technology that sets you apart from your competitors?
Precision Meters is a relatively young, up-and-coming company, its main focus being service and quick delivery. Presently, you could not call anything that is being traded in the water meter industry as unique, as most manufacturers/suppliers deal in very similar products. We are however proud that we can ‒ at this time in our young existence ‒ compete with other brands and have the technical ability within the company to enable us to give solid advice and good after-sales service.
Any special projects or products you would like to mention?
Besides working on local projects we are busy with projects across Africa, in Tanzania, Liberia and Chad.
How do you assess which meters should be placed in which conditions?
This is dependent on a few factors such as water quality, ﬂow rate, pressure and where the meters are to be installed.
What are the standards set for water meters in South Africa and are there non-compliant ones being installed?
I sit on the WMMA and we do our best to monitor non-compliance in the country. The main policing arm, NRCS, also battles with this because to comply as a water meter manufacturer one must have NRCS-type-approved meters and a SANAS-accredited laboratory as a starter. Any manufacturer/supplier outside of these parameters is outside of the law. I believe that there are meters in the ground in SA that are non-compliant but we can only battle against this if we see them in the ﬁeld. Meters with a SA number are the compliant meters as a rule of thumb. There is always talk of cheap Eastern meters in the market but one must be corrected in that most products today have some Eastern components and the water meter industry does not diﬀer much. Remember, some of the best R&D in the world comes from the East.
Any further thoughts that you might want to share with our readers?
Yes, next time you turn on a tap, think: water conservation!