Technology to make our beaches safe

2014-08-11 00:00

NEW oceanic monitoring technology expected to be implemented on Durban’s beaches could revolutionise safety at city beaches.

Through real-time data collection, wave surges could be better monitored through new coastal monitoring equipment.

Randeer Kasserchun, the city’s deputy head for coastal, stormwater and catchment management, said the development of this online early warning system will be the first of its kind to be implemented in South Africa.

But the equipment — expected to cost more than R5,5 million if the purchase is approved by council — will not be able to provide warning for earthquakes or tsunamis.

Last week, Durban experienced several earth tremors in the wake of an earthquake in Orkney, North West.

“The equipment is not deployed far enough offshore to provide enough warning time. It would pick up water level changes. There are talks of a deep water buoy off our coast, but this is not easily done and costs are very high,” said Kassechun.

He said the city has been monitoring the movement of the ocean for almost 30 years.

“The current programme includes data collection above sea level and bathymetric survey below. Sediment characterisation is periodically done as well.” He said the existing equipment measured waves offshore wind, temperature and precipitation.

But the data has to be collected manually. The new system — which will alert a server through a type of SMS — will also assist in flood warnings, wave surges as well as water quality.

“The main difference is the real-time aspect and water quality that will be possible. Currently we have minimal real time data coming into our database.”

Although this was not a major issue, with most scientific work such as this is done with “collected” data, “if we want to refine our hydraulic models, and push into real time data, we need this new equipment.

“With real time data, we can use sophisticated models to assimilate the data and provide scenarios for forecasting,” said Kassechun.

He said as engineers they are seeing changes in climatic conditions through the data they are currently collecting and said the likelihood of the coast being battered by storms is increasingly likely.

“This, coupled with our vast development on the coastline in eThekwini, means we certainly can expect an increased strain on any infrastructure in the future.”

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