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Peter Blersch is Aurecon’s Bulk Water and Dams Competency Leader. He has almost 30 years’ experience in the planning, design and construction of dams and related infrastructure.
After graduating from the University of Stellenbosch and a six year stint with the South African Department of Water Affairs, he joined Ninham Shand in Cape Town. He spent a memorable three years in Lesotho on the construction of Katse Dam, ran the Kwazulu Natal office of Ninham Shand for a few years and moved to Pretoria in 2001, where he headed the Heavy Engineering Division of Ninham Shand until the merger.
He subsequently headed up the Tshwane Water Unit and apart from his competency responsibilities, is now responsible for Water Industry Business Development in South Africa and is Major Projects Leader for the Water Services Group globally.
Proudest moment in your career?
Being part of the multi- award winning Berg Water Project.
The most important lesson you learnt early in your career.
My two most influential mentors, Mike Shand and the late Mike de Witt, taught me that you aren’t really an engineer until you reach the point when you realise what you don’t know. That is when you really start learning.
Your most challenging project? And why?
The design of Ourkiss Dam in Algeria, part of the Athmania Transfer Scheme. The project held numerous challenges, not least the fact that the feasibility study on which we had based our tender had been curtailed, with no geotechnical investigations having been undertaken and the topography having been misinterpreted, resulting in an entirely different site being selected at an early stage of our studies.
Our geotechnical investigations indicated that karstic conditions were present, requiring a complex clay blanket arrangement to ensure watertightness.
And, of course, all our reports, drawings and tender documentation had to be produced in French.
Keys to a successful project delivery.
Understanding your client’s needs and expectations, planning, management, having the right resources and teaming with your client, and, within reason, with the contractor.
Where do you see bulk water and dams over the next five years?
In the developed world we are seeing an increasing emphasis on efficient water use and reuse, with few new dams being planned.
In the developing world, we are seeing an increasing awareness of climate change and the need for dams to increase both security of food and water supply. The technology employed to meet this demand will also need to evolve, with particular emphasis on efficient construction methods and optimised operation of multi-reservoir systems.
In the field of bulk water, there will be an increased focus on the efficiency of pumping systems, design for whole of life costs and comprehensive asset management.
One of the great challenge facing the bulk water and dams is...
The availability of skilled and experienced resources, particularly in the geotechnical side of dam engineering.
Watching the sun set over the Atlantic (yes, I am still a Capetonian at heart!).
Leader, Bulk Water & Dams
Phone: +27 12 643 9000
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