The number of water delivery protests, including the water crisis in Brits which claimed four lives, is telling of the burden on the country’s water supply.
However, recycling wastewater, which when reused could contribute to the country’s water resources, was an avenue that had been overlooked.
According to Steve Mitchell, principal consultant at EON Consulting who presented the company’s wastewater risk abatement plans at African Utility Week, a common notion is that it is not possible to treat wastewater to the point where it can be reused.
Mitchell’s colleague, Adri Venter further cited lack of adequate skills and resources as a barrier to implementing effective water waste management policies.
Venter said the speed of development in urban areas, coupled with the influx of people into major metropolitan areas, had outpaced the capacity of municipalities to treat waste water adequately.
According to statistics, by 2030 the global demand for water is expected to increase by 30 percent.
In Joburg, unaccounted-for water due to unbilled or unrecorded consumption and water lost through leaks stands at 29 percent, which is higher than other cities.
The city’s water demand growth is projected at 3.62 percent per annum.
However, EON Consulting has developed a tool called a Wastewater Risk Abatement Plan, which identifies risks and tracks the progress of wastewater management programmes while providing a risk action plan.
The company’s plan is based on the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs’ Green Drop Certification – the wastewater services incentive-based regulation –which seeks to improve the level of wastewater management in South Africa.
Venter attributed the low levels of wastewater treatment in municipalities to a lack of adequate skills and insufficient allocation of investment, which continued to hamper many municipalities from conceptualising and implementing effective water waste management policies.
She added that the political focus on ‘visible’ service delivery outputs such as housing had often resulted in the neglect of non-visible, but equally important infrastructure that ensured that sewerage was treated according to specific standards.
“We shouldn’t be playing roulette on which service is more critical than the other,” said Venter.