Please Introduce yourself to our readers..
My name is Eng. Philip Holi, I’m the Technical Director at Davis & Shitliff. My role includes managing our emerging business segments which incorporate Renewable energy, Irrigation, Water Treatment, Renewable Energy Power Generation and Manufacturing.
What position does Davis & Shirtliff occupy in the wide water Industry?
Davis & Shitliff is a supplier of Industrial solutions tied to water supplies so it could be pumps, it could be chemical supply for treating water or an entire system.
Could we break down your solutions for domestic use;
We provide things like filters, which take water, from whatever source that an individual or a household is getting it from, and purify it or treat it so that it is suitable for drinking purposes, Laundry … and in some cases you find that people have sources of water which are contaminated with disease causing bacteria so we supply equipment which will remove or kill that sort of bacteria. In some cases people have access to water that is carrying a high load of silt which is also not suitable for cooking purposes or for laundry. So the equipment we supply for domestic use falls in two categories; One is disinfection which is removal of any disease causing organisms and the other is removal of Silt or chemicals that could be harmful for the water consumer, for domestic purposes it’s normally reverse osmosis.
So typically what process does one go through before deciding on the type of solution assuming they already have some source?
Well first you need to know what’s wrong with the water and that involves getting the water tested. You can then share with us the water analysis which will in turn help us advise which equipment will best treat the parameters identified in the analysis. Davis & Shirtliff has a laboratory and can carry out a basic water analysis but it’s good to have these items separated so that we are not placing ourselves as the people who set our own examinations.
What would you identify as the contributors to the Country’s domestic water shortage?
The two main issues with water supply of kenya are; first the availability of water and secondly the infrastructure to move the water from where it is to where it is required. The sources of water are limited and the infrastructure is either not sufficient or it is aging and needs to be replaced. Of course another big challenge is that the population is growing and the water sources must expand to meet that growth in population.
Moving on, could we discuss a few of your projects? Maybe let us start with your partnership with Red Cross.
The Red Cross has been identified as a leading humanitarian organization. By working with Red Cross, Davis & Shirtliff is able to reach out and contribute in a way back to the community through initiatives like CSR and even just contribute or participate in helping to address National Disasters.
This year we had issues to do with flooding that in addition to causing damages to households and resulting in displacement of populations, also resulted in damage of Infrastructure. In Kilifi County we had baricho water treatment plant destroyed by floods. This plant was supplying water to the entire Kilifi County including Malindi Town. As a result there was a developing public health disaster when the population was not able to access safe drinking water. Kenya Red cross approached us to work with them to develop a solution that could be deployed very quickly to help address the problem and reduce the risk of waterborne diseases.
Our team of Engineers together with Red Cross developed a solution which basically took water from the Sabaki River and we built a water treatment plant on the river in under five days that would treat aprox. one million liters of water per day. The treatment process basically involved Filtration to remove particles of dirt in water as well as disinfection to remove bacteria and other disease causing organisms.
A similar situation occurred in Makueni and we worked together with the Red Cross and the county Government and were able to deploy a similar solution in a very short time.
In the same light could we speak about your solution at St. Francis Hospital, Kasarani.
St. Fransics Kasarani is a mission hospital that provides medical services to the surrounding areas in Kasarani. The hospital had sunk a borehole some time back but they found that the borehole was contaminated with fluoride which meant that the water was unsuitable for drinking purposes because fluoride has an impact on the human body, it causes dental fluorosis which is weakening and browning of teeth and it also causes skeleton problems and weakening of the bones. So they had to get water through a boozer at an annual cost of aprox. Kshs 5.2 Million. This is quite expensive because as a mission hospital they do not have that sort of Money.
So they approached USAID who funded their proposal for a water solution. They then came to us and requested us to design a solution and together with our technology partners we were able to come with one of its kind water treatment solutions that would treat the borehole water at the hospital in an affordable and cost effective manner.
We combined two technologies in Ultra filtration and nano filtration, to come up with a solution that removed silt and fluoride from the water.
The difference between Ultra and Nano Filtration?
Ultrafiltration is a membrane based filtration technology, it’s basically used to remove solid particles from the water. Nanofiltration is a much finer means of filtration which carries out filtration at the molecular level.
What are the costs involved in these systems we have discussed?
The cost of a water treatment system depends on what is the problem with the water and the quantity of water. A typical water treatment system for a household will cost you as low as Ksh 5,000 if you are just looking at removal of silt, If you are looking at reverse Osmosis then from Ksh 20,000 – 25,000. As you get larger and larger to Industrial scale, Maybe community scale then the prices increase.
Let us discuss containerized water treatment plants.
In many parts of Africa there are war tone areas or areas with limited infrastructure. In all these areas there is a need for treated water either by relief organizations, military organizations or people building infrastructure in these areas. One of the main issues in addressing the water needs for these groups is that they need a modular solution that they can deploy very quickly and sometimes move from place to place as they carry out their operations . At Davis & Shirtliff we came up with containerized solutions to address this need. A Containerized solution basically contains all the equipment required to treat whatever source of water you have to drinking water standards. So it might contain a generator to provide power, an assortment of pumps to get the water from whatever water source, Take that water and treat it, filter it and provide drinking water. It is designed to deploy in a day and it’s portable.
How do you rate the success of this project so far?
This project has been a success for us. We have deployed these plants as far as Haiti. These are local plants designed and manufactured in kenya but are helping to address international challanges. For example the plants we sent to Haiti were used during the Hurricane that hit Haiti sometimes back. We have some in Mali being used by the UN, We have plants in Southern Sudan, In Ethiopia, Somalia, Rwanda and Kenya all of them being used by various organizations to provide treated water for their personnel.
What are your Industrial scale Range of Solutions?
Industrial water, depending on what the industry requires, has a range of solutions. For example pharmaceutical industries need extremely pure water to produce medicines. So we look at a range of reverse osmosis technologies for removal of molecules from water to provide Ultra-Pure water for companies manufacturing pharmaceuticals. There are also bottling companies that produce beverages or bottled water for whom again we provide systems ranging from ultrafiltration or just normal filtration. Looking at general industry where industries have boilers and cooling towers. If this boilers and cooling towers use water that is impure then their efficiency is affected which has a knock on effect on the processes. We have solutions ranging from mechanical treatment, to ultrafiltration to chemicals which can be dosed in boilers and cooling towers.
Yes, our irrigation business is quite new for us and we’ve chosen to work in three separate fields of Irrigation: One is landscape irrigation which is basically providing water for landscapes for schools, for golf courses, for sports institutions and so on; We’ve also provided drip irrigation solutions. These are mainly for farmers; and we have one or two sprinkler irrigation solutions that we’ve also released out in the market.
In all these cases we offer an end to end solution, so where we have a customer that requires irrigation we are able to work with them from their source of water, moving the water from the source to where it is required, if they don’t have power to move the water we are able to provide solar solutions to move it, if that water requires treatment again we are able to provide solutions for treatment of the water and then there is obviously dispensing the water into the fields. Our Engineers are also able to look at the crops that the Customer has and advise on the most appropriate system.
Moving on, Why is it important for us to have conversations around Renewable energy?
The first issue is obviously climate change. Conventional energy sources like fuel or coal driven power plants have an impact on the environment whilst renewable energy sources are considered green because they have limited impact on the environment. Secondly, renewable energy as the name suggests is renewable, it is not an energy source that can be depleted. For example solar power comes from the sun which is always there.
Besides that huge upfront investment needed, what else do you think impacts the take up of renewable energy sources like solar?
People say the solar is expensive but actually the cost has been coming down every day. About 8 years ago the cost of installed solar plant was about USD 10 per Watt, that cost has reduced to the region of USD 0.8 per watt so that’s quite a significant drop. If you look at it, if you invest in a solar system to offset your power generation needs will pay for itself in Four to Five years. Investing in a solar water heating solution will pay for itself in not more than two years because water heating is actually the primary energy consumer in a household. So people need to think about renewable energy as not being heavy capital investment now compared to what it was in the past.
What do you think are the opportunities for Engineers in Water and in Renewable Energy?
Well I think, water and energy are the challenges of the 21st century and these challenges can only be solved by Engineers so yes there are lots of opportunities for Engineers looking at these two sectors. As I mentioned, water is a dwindling resource, as the population keeps growing and we need more technologies to provide water to match the growing population. The only people that can come up with these solutions are Engineers. Same case applies to Energy so these two industries continue to grow.
Are we producing enough Engineers to face these challenges?
Sure! I think we have a lot of good programs. The only area we may have a problem is the technicians because we do need the technicians to do the hands on work.
Thank you for your time Engineer!