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Recycling and reusing water brings relief to water supply  

Water resource managers and planners are now forced to think out-of-the-box to consider unconventional water sources, such as desalination of seawater and brackish groundwater, water reuse and rainwater harvesting, as additional water supply alternatives.  This was emphasized during the Water Research Commission’s water reuse roadshows held on 18 and 19 February 2016 in Durban and Klerksdorp, showcasing what the Commission has done over the years to aid the country in addressing its water scarcity challenge.

“Rapid population growth, urbanization, unpredictability of conventional water source sustainability due to climate change, and pollution are amongst the key drivers of the need to change the way we do things currently,” said Mr Chris Swartz of Water Utilization Engineers, one of the country’s most experienced water reuse and drinking water quality specialists.

“An alarming fact is that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could be under water-stress conditions,” said Swartz on Friday.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPM9PJVjzm8

Only developed countries have seriously considered water reuse. California in the USA, Australia, the Middle East, southern Europe (the Mediterranean), south-western and southern Africa, China and Singapore have already made strides in the implementation of water reuse. 

According to Swartz, South Africa is still at the stage of assessing feasibility, with only a study of one water reuse plant, in Beaufort West, completed. Windhoek has successfully demonstrated the possibility of water reuse in Goreangab.

“It costs a lot of money to treat water. Industries and agriculture can at least depend on recycled water for their operations. It makes no sense to take water from any source and treat to potable standard while only using 60% of if it to grow food, which really does not need potable water, for example,” said Dr Jo Burgess, Research Manager responsible for mine-water at the WRC.

Marina Kruger, Head of Operations at Midvaal Water Company, confirmed how recycling is done to reclaim about 60%  of water to potable standards at their Stilfontein  site, while ensuring that health issues are well addressed.


“The recycling process helps us in reducing the cost of purchasing raw water from the already stressed Vaal River System,” Kruger said.   Midvaal Water has, since 1954, been supplying the area of Klerksdorp (City of Matlosana) with water of high quality standard and provides reused water to the local mines.

Dr Burgess further noted, “Municipalities in South Africa are beginning to look at possible technologies that could be used in augmenting their water supplies through reusing water. Msunduzi Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal, for example, is reclaiming domestic wastewater from Darville Wastewater Works for potable reuse using membrane bioreactor technology.” 


Water reuse in South Africa has not gone uncontested. A WRC study entitled Islamic jurisprudence and conditions for acceptability of reclamation of wastewater for potable use by Muslim users, WRC Report No. 2360/1/15, investigated objections to water reclamation by the Muslim community in eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality; the Muslim community in Beaufort West, however, has demonstrated acceptance for water reclamation practised in their town.

South Africa needs to speedily embark on a sanitation revolution and catch up with what the developing world identifies as sustainable use of water, recycling and reuse.

Contact: H Cele, Stakeholder Liaison by email: hlengiwec@wrc.org.za .More information can be found at our Knowledge Hub: www.wrc.org.za



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