The recent 7 October 2021 WISA Impact Seminar “Water Reuse, Recycling & Reclamation in South Africa” provided a current overview on the hot topic of water reuse in South Africa. Thirteen presentations from local and international experts explored different water reuse and recycling applications, cutting edge research and technology development. The seminar highlighted the multiple dimensions of water re-use including water quality and risk management, health risks, public acceptance and support, emerging contaminants and monitoring and technology validation. Water re-use in urban, agricultural, industry and mining applications for both potable and non-potable uses was profiled, emphasizing the breadth of the sector and the range of skills involved.
The bright present and promising future of water reuse: seminar insights
Chris Swartz kicked off the event by setting the scene of the past, the present and the future of water re-use in South Africa. His presentation tracked the small beginnings of the water re-use sector in the 60s, which centered on research and pilot scale activities, to the increasing attention since 2005 and some current examples in Cape Town and the mining sector. The presentation concluded that the future of water re-use will be rooted in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and will focus on evolving monitoring systems, training of personnel, implementing self-regulating programs and developing public private partnerships, amongst other.
Dr Kevin Winter inspired attendees with a vision for how contaminated water from informal settlements could be re-used, with his presentation on work at the site of the Water Hub in Franschhoek. He provided an overview of using nature-based treatment in the form of six large vegetated and unvegetated biofiltration cells constructed from infrastructure on an old wastewater treatment works to treat and reuse water for food production and fish breeding. The contaminated water from an informal settlement flows down a river running through the Water Hub site, where some results indicate a near 100% reduction in E.coli levels after treatment through the biofiltration cells.
The topic of risk assessment in water re-use was covered during two presentations. Professor Thomas Pettersson from the Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden spoke on using quantitative microbial risk assessment methodologies for risk assessment using two case studies in Windhoek, Namibia and Morbylanga, Sweden. Bettina Genthe provided a chemical perspective, sharing results on using the Health Risk Assessment process to determine the safety of water for chemicals.
On the industrial water re-use side, Maronel Steyn presented an atlas on the potential for bulk scale industrial effluent reuse in South Africa by the CSIR.
A panel discussion was opened by a presentation by Dr Edward Archer on the challenges and opportunities for water re-use strategies regarding contaminants of emerging concern (CECs), during which he warned of the complex cocktail of CECs in water systems that can impact water reuse potential.
The public acceptance and support aspects of water re-use were touched on through an insightful presentation by Dr Sarah Slabbert titled “Towards a water reuse literate public”. Her presentation covered the WRC produced “A Communication Strategy for water re-use in South Africa”, showcasing the general guidelines for communicating with the public and the five associated building blocks of plan and sustain, showcase, incentivise, use multiple media and listen. A re-usable infographic was shared as part of the presentation.
The seminar ended with two city of Cape Town focused water re-use projects on groundwater and treated wastewater linked to The Cape Town Water Strategy. David Allpass shared aspects of the City of Cape Town New Water Program: Augmented reality; the Cape Flats Aquifer abstraction and Managed Aquifer Recharge groundwater scheme. Brendon Theunissen presented on the City of Cape Town – Faure Water System which is taking treated effluent from the Zandvliet wastewater treatment works and treating it for re-use at the Faure advanced water purification plant.
Water re-use is of vital importance in the face of changing climates, extreme weather conditions and water scarcity. The seminar provided a range of insights into water re-use and its promising potential and bright future in South Africa. As one of the presenters noted for water re-use, this is a very exciting point in history in how we are thinking about and working with water in a new way.
WISA and the WISA Water Reuse Committee Western Cape Chapter would like to thank the presenters, chairpersons and the event sponsors the Energy & Water Sector Education Training Authority (EWSETA), Integral Laboratories, the Local Government Sector Education and Training Authority (LGSETA) and Proxa Water.
Jessica Fell – WISA Water Reuse Division (WC) and Future Water institute, University of Cape Town