Ahead of World Water Day (22 March), water treatment specialist, Veolia Services Southern Africa prompts government and local municipalities to consider the implementation of water reuse solutions, to protect our freshwater and groundwater resources respectively. There is a growing necessity for these interventions, as it is predicted that by 2025, there will be water shortages in 50 countries – including ours.
Wastewater reuse protects natural water resources (while making more water available)
Only 2,5% of the world’s water is available as freshwater yet demand for this resource grows steadily. Water reuse isn’t a recent innovation (Namibia has been using it for the last 50 years), but it presents an effective remedy to the scarcity of freshwater. Water reuse solutions make more water available while enabling preservation of natural water resources. In addition, water reuse controls costs and significantly reduces pollutant discharges – significant benefits for municipality, industry, mining and agriculture. As Antoine Frérot, Veolia Chairman and CEO said: “Wastewater can no longer be regarded as waste. Today, only 2% of the wastewater produced in the world is reused. There is a lot of room for improvement!”.
Miles Murray, Director of Business Development, Veolia Services Southern Africa, believes that the limited adoption of wastewater reuse solutions in South Africa is to our detriment. “Investment in this sphere is seen as a grudge purchase, so making money available for this is very difficult, both for the municipal market and industrial markets,” he says.
He points to the success of the Durban Water Recycling Plant (DW), constructed in 2000 and operated and maintained by Veolia. This plant has freed up water for 220 000 households in the City of eThekwini, without the need for additional infrastructure spending. At DW, 47 Ml/day of mixed effluent from the industry as well as domestic wastewater is treated to a very high standard which is then used by large industrial clients. This leaves more drinking water available for consumption and domestic use. City clients benefit from significant cost savings as they pay lower fares for this water (compared to those for regular potable water). The high standard of skills development that is enabled by this private sector-operated and maintained plant is also noteworthy.
Another case study in effective wastewater reuse is that of the Windhoek Goreangab Operating Company (WINGOC) – a consortium of Veolia and VA Tech Wabag. The solution yields 21 000 m3 of safe drinking water daily – a quarter of the total drinking water consumed in Windhoek, in a water scarce country (only 1% of the 250 mm of rain that falls per annum, infiltrates the groundwater supply). Windhoek is dependent on water supply from boreholes and from dams located far from the city. “To cope with shortages, the city sought alternative solutions to secure reliable water supply and found an answer through wastewater recycling,” explains Murray.
Artificial aquifer recharge boosts productivity and potential of our aquifers
Demand for water has tripled in the last 50 years which has depleted groundwater levels. Natural aquifers are being drained faster than they can be replenished through rainfall and surface water infiltration. Artificial aquifer recharge presents a viable remedy, replenishing and preserving aquifers for sustainable water cycle management.
Veolia’s artificial aquifer recharge process takes the aquifer’s hydrogeology into consideration, to ensure that groundwater is restored and protected. The surface of wastewater is treated before being used in any recharge application, to ensure optimal water quality. “Aquifer recharge provides more groundwater in regions suffering from chronic or seasonal water deficits, closing the gap between the demand for water and the existing resources,” says Murray.
In Berlin, the Berliner Wasser Betriebe (an initiative contracted in 1999, 50.1% owned by the Land of Berlin and 49.9% owned by the Veolia Water-RWE consortium) has provided for three types of aquifer recharge. The goal was to aid the government in its objective to improve groundwater management through the development of alternative water resources, to better serve the city’s 3.4 million people and its various industries. Artificial recharge accounts for a substantial 15% of the local aquifer volumes (23,5 million m3 of water per annum). “Artificial recharge makes aquifers more productive than they are naturally, increasing their potential,” explains Murray. “In addition, recharge is significantly less costly than the alternatives, such as building of surface reservoirs, sweater desalination or water imports”.
Veolia enables sustainable water resource management
Veolia’s water resource management solutions enable continuous production with the goal of protecting the ecosystem whilst reducing hydric stress impacts. These solutions facilitate the control of all water cycle stages that can meet the many challenges of local authorities and industrial customers: resource management, production and delivery of drinking water and industrial water process such as, collection, treatment and recycling from all sources as well as by-products from its treatment (organic matter, salts, metals, complex molecules and energy). In addition, Veolia offers customer relationship management, as well as the design and construction of treatment and network infrastructure. “All of this expertise allows Veolia to support its customers in the implementation of integrated and sustainable water resource management” , says Murray.
Veolia Services Southern Africa has over 160 years of experience in water treatment and technology, and is a specialist in optimised resource management with over 350 proprietary solutions. These include digital services that enable smarter management and contribute to the continuous improvement of facilities’ operational performance. The company’s purpose is closely aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.