We’re wast­ing good wa­ter

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

IN 2009, civil en­gi­neers AA Ile­mobade, JR Adewumi and JE van Zyl, from the uni­ver­si­ties of the Wit­wa­ter­srand and Jo­han­nes­burg, re­spec­tively, pro­duced a re­port ti­tled “As­sess­ment of the fea­si­bil­ity of us­ing a dual wa­ter retic­u­la­tion sys­tem in South Africa”. The re­port was sent to the Wa­ter Re­search Com­mis­sion.

They queried why it was prac­tice in South Africa for potable wa­ter of the high­est qual­ity to be used for toi­let flush­ing and land­scape ir­ri­ga­tion. It is com­mon cause that this is un­sus­tain­able. South Africa is a wa­ter-stressed coun­try.

They ar­gued that a dual retic­u­la­tion sys­tem, as found in the UK, Aus­tralia, Namibia, US, Sin­ga­pore, Ja­pan, China, Trinidad, Tobago, the Nether­lands, Is­rael and the Mar­shall Is­lands, was fea­si­ble for our coun­try as well.

Stud­ies by Botha and Pre­to­rius in 1998 re­vealed that dual sys­tems al­lowed for the main­te­nance of ad­e­quate wa­ter sup­ply. Even though the tech­nol­ogy has evolved since then, an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment has not ma­te­ri­alised. Our fail­ure to use wa­ter op­ti­mally has wors­ened our wa­ter woes.

Dual sys­tems al­low for non­potable wa­ter to be re­cy­cled and for con­sumers to en­joy dis­counts of up to 60%. To­tal wa­ter sup­ply, mean­while, nearly dou­bles. That is some­thing to think about. Reg­u­lar control and mon­i­tor­ing would, of course, have to be guar­an­teed.

To­day the wa­ter cri­sis in Cape Town has forced us to use potable wa­ter spar­ingly. Most of us who con­sciously want to avert Day Zero are no longer us­ing potable wa­ter to flush our toi­lets. Sup­ply­ing potable and non-potable wa­ter through a dual sys­tem will, there­fore, make sense to us. More­over, we will cer­tainly never want to be in such a cri­sis sit­u­a­tion again.

The en­gi­neers point out that lo­cal au­thor­i­ties will need to be equipped with qual­i­fied per­son­nel to un­der­take control and mon­i­tor­ing tasks and en­force reg­u­la­tions and the De­part­ment of Wa­ter Af­fairs and Forestry will have to set out poli­cies re­gard­ing non-potable wa­ter re­use and dual sys­tems to guar­an­tee safety.

I rec­om­mend that all role-play­ers get to­gether to lay the foun­da­tions for the rapid im­ple­men­ta­tion of a dual retic­u­la­tion sys­tem.

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