CityPress - - Business - – Liezel de Lange

There are grow­ing in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in the wa­ter sec­tor in South Africa, es­pe­cially when tak­ing into ac­count that we will need 63 bil­lion cu­bic me­tres of wa­ter a year by 2030. At the mo­ment, we have only 38 bil­lion cu­bic me­tres avail­able, says lo­cal wa­ter ex­pert Dr Anthony Tur­ton, as parts of the coun­try be­gin to re­cover from the worst drought in liv­ing mem­ory.

It will cost about R700 bil­lion to re­fur­bish our cur­rent wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture and, due to rat­ings down­grades, gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tions might find it dif­fi­cult to raise cap­i­tal on the bond mar­ket for big pro­jects.

The de­ci­sion mak­ers in board­rooms are fur­ther re­al­is­ing that they can no longer re­gard wa­ter as a “given re­source” that gov­ern­ment will pro­vide in abun­dance, so they are be­com­ing more open to new ap­proaches, says Tur­ton.

One ex­am­ple is the off­take agree­ment be­tween Dur­ban south sewage works in Amanz­im­toti, a pa­per mill and a lo­cal oil re­fin­ery. The mill and the re­fin­ery are buy­ing treated sewage wa­ter – which costs less than potable wa­ter – for their in­dus­trial pro­cesses. Be­fore this agree­ment was reached, the treated wa­ter was dis­charged into the ocean.

Tur­ton also be­lieves that the min­ing sec­tor, es­pe­cially coal mines, can be­come “pro­duc­ers rather than pol­luters” of wa­ter as part of their pro­cesses of de­wa­ter­ing their op­er­a­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to Tur­ton, cur­rent leg­is­la­tion and reg­u­la­tions limit busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties be­cause the re­source has been na­tion­alised by the Wa­ter Act of 1998 with no of­fi­cial com­mer­cial value. He ad­vises in­vestors to make sure a se­cure off­take agree­ment is in place, and to in­ter­nalise the risk associated with hav­ing to re­new wa­ter li­cences every five years.

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