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Waste Water Treatment Options in South Africa

In common with other industrialised nations, South Africa produces vast quantities of waste water that requires extensive treatment to recover and render reusable. However, the southernmost tip of our continent is a predominately semi-arid region in which droughts are a common occurrence. Consequently, the need for strict conservation is greater than in many other parts of the world. Despite efforts to reduce consumption, the risk of diminishing reserves remains, placing pressure on industrial, commercial and domestic consumers to unite in the effort to avert a national water crisis.

In practice, it is not the mining companies, car manufacturers and construction industry, but our farmers who produce most of South Africa’s waste water. Fortunately, mother nature’s treatment removes most of its contaminants as it percolates through the soil. However, there are also methods to treat it more rapidly, enabling farmers to reuse it instead. Adopting this practice could cut their overheads while also supporting the drive to conserve the nation’s declining reserves.

Many industries rely on similar technology for their day-to-day operation. Process water often becomes heavily contaminated during its use, leaving a factory owner with one of two possible options. In the past, most of that effluent would have been discharged into the surrounding terrain after appropriate waste water treatment to ensure the levels of purity required in South Africa. Today, many industries are choosing to embrace the second option. The contaminated effluent will still need cleaning up as before. However, instead of disposing of the treated liquid, conservation-minded managers are finding ways to reuse it. As with the farmer, this option offers a means to cut the current high cost of the municipal supply and relieve some of the mounting pressure on utility companies to increase their output.

It is often said that charity should begin at home. That said, it is becoming increasingly apparent that it’s time to apply the same philosophy to waste water treatment in South Africa. Urban and rural users account for almost 30 per cent of the country’s consumption, which means the general public could be making a comparably significant contribution to the country’s conservation efforts.

An inexpensive but valuable option for domestic use is rainwater harvesting. Though unsuitable for drinking if untreated, the product is perfectly adequate for most outdoor cleaning tasks and watering gardens. With a more advanced installation, a homeowner could even recover the grey waste water from sinks and showers and route it through a compact treatment plant to supplement the municipal supply and cut monthly bills. Watericon is a leading designer and manufacturer of the systems that are helping the people of South Africa to keep the taps flowing.