As the 30th driest country in the world, South Africa is facing greater water security challenges with increasing periods of drought and unpredictable rainfall patterns.
According to a case study on alternative sanitation for water security done by Tomorrow Matters Now, 19.5% of South Africans are still without an improved sanitation service and 4.9% of South Africans have no access to sanitation.
For 60% of water management systems, water demand is overtaken by supply, while 98% of our available water resources are already being used. At the same time, South Africa’s water and sanitation infrastructure is crumbling because of a chronic lack of investment.
Local municipalities are faced with these challenges and its effects on a daily basis.
Some of these include the age old problems of institutional or financial shortcomings and capacity constraints, a delay in sanitation services linked to a delay in housing, and the continued maintenance and improvement of basic sanitation.
Waste management has also become an increasing problem with water treatment plants having released raw sewage into rivers in the past due to poor management and maintenance backlogs.
The case study found the need for alternative means of sanitation.
Providing universal access to conventional waterborne sanitation is one of government’s biggest challenges, and the critical aspects of hygiene and dignity, as well as a healthy and resilient environment need to be addressed.
The study said that ‘flushing’ cannot be the solution as we cannot continue to use clean, portable water to flush waste. “We need game-changing new technologies which require little or no water,” the findings suggested.
The study suggested that alternative means of sanitation require low-water and no-water systems, low-energy wastewater treatment, sustainable operations and maintenance, and be an adaptable, integrated system that can ‘click into place’.
The Arumloo micro-flush toilet was cited as an example as it only uses 1 litre of water.
Biokube, a Danish company, was said to be a reputable in building decentralised waste-water treatment plants which have been implemented in more than 43 countries. Its “strength lies in scalability from household level, to resorts, to small cities,” the report said.
The development of a viable partnership model involving the combined efforts of governments, communities, citizens, civil society and the private sector is critical for success, the study added.
It also noted the following factors as crucial for success:
- Community involvement/mobilisation
- Stakeholder feedback loop: representation of the community’s needs, and education around/exposure to project developments
- Citizens themselves as early adopters
- Move forward together on an equalised journey towards improved sanitation
Johannesburg eliminating backlogs
In response to ageing water systems in South Africa, the City of Johannesburg has commenced with an Infrastructure Renewal Plan costing R1 billion a year to increase the renewal rate from 1% to 3.5% to eliminate backlogs.
Similar plans are in place for water-and sewer infrastructure throughout the country.
Industry experts have asked whether it will be possible to maintain demanding and costly water technologies, as perhaps alternative sanitation systems could provide an answer to these issues, offering low-water flush solutions or alternative sanitation technologies that use no water at all.
There are a wide range of improved technologies available in the industry that provide safe, hygienic, and sustainable sanitation at various costs and levels of complexity, the report pointed out.
It concluded by saying that these types of alternative sanitation technologies promote water security through the recovery of potential resources, unlock business potential for entrepreneurs and create incentives for future job creation.
By Riante Naidoo