An Integrated Project Funded by the European Commission under the Sustainable Development, Global Change and Ecosystems Thematic Priority Area.
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Contract Number: 018320
Project Cordinator: Dr. Theo van den Hoven KIWA Water Research
Project Duration: 1st January 2006 to 31st December 2010

Technology for safe drinking water in Southern Africa

3rd Regional Technology Platform, Cape Town, November 29th, 2007

 

- The third Regional Technology Platform enabled an intensive and vivid information exchange between regional stakeholders from the South African water sector and the TECHNEAU Team -

 

Not only in industrialised but particularly in developing countries there is growing concern about the ability of traditional drinking water supply systems and existing technologies to cope with present and future demands and the increasing population.

 

Taking place in Cape Town, South Africa on 29 November 2007, the third RTP therefore focussed on "Technology for Safe Drinking Water in Southern Africa". The conference was linked to the regional workshop of the EU-Project 'Reclaim Water' (www.reclaim-water.org) on 30 November 2007 which was centred on "Water Reclamation and Reuse Technologies in Southern Africa".

 

The RTP-presentations from a wide range of national and international water experts highlighted specific aspects of the drinking water situation in the developing countries of Southern African and were interspersed with presentations describing relevant research and results from TECHNEAU. The event which was hosted by WRC -Water Research Commission of South Africa - and Chris Swartz Water Utilization Engineers, attracted more than 70 delegates from South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.

 

All Southern African Countries suffer to a certain extent from water scarcity and the challenges to assure a sustainable supply with drinking water are enormous. Generally, the standard of supply and the quality of the drinking water varies significantly:

 

In the larger metropolitan areas the standard of supply and the treatment technologies are on par with the developed world. But nearly 50% of the region's population lives in rural areas. The villages are widely scattered making the supply with potable water difficult and expensive. And thus, people in these areas often lack piped supply. They have to collect the water from a tap point and carry it home in -often unhygienic- vessels, which poses a significant risk of waterborne diseases.

The rural South African population heavily relies on small local water treatment plants. But the drinking water quality these plants deliver is often poor due to ineffective technical design, and several problems regarding the operation and maintenance of the treatment systems (e.g. deteriorating infrastructure due to inadequate maintenance, lack of cost-effective operation systems). Most of these issues can be ascribed to a lack of capacity, training and education, shortage of (skilled) personnel and ressources, lack of awareness and knowledge on the importance of effective drinking water treatment.

 

To cope with this situation and to assure especially the potable water supply in remote areas, a range of "High Technologies" (robust ultrafiltration membrane systems, solar or wave powered RO systems) and "Low technologies" (sand filtration, inexpensive POU solar stills , simple ozonation systems) have been developed.

In order to enable these decentralised technologies to function adequately under the demanding rural conditions, the South African government for example persues two approaches:

Firstly, the plants are remotely monitored and problems will be subsequently attended by a "roving technician". Secondly, a national Technical Assistance Centre will support small water suppliers with information, practical and hands-on assistance.

 

Some countries also explore intensely opportunities for water reclamation and reuse e.g. utilisation of grey-water in Botswana or the famous example of direct potable reclamation at the Goreangab plant in Windhoek, Namibia. Other options aim at the reduction of water demand such as dry on-site sanitation in Botswana.

Generally, discussion rather concentrates on access to water than on water quality and sustainability of services. One example: While South Africa has a good legislative framework, its' effective implementation remains a challenge and many communities continue to have inadequate water quality monitoring and control systems. A number of initiatives are now implemented to improve the situation like the deployment of a municipal electronic water quality management system tool, a municipal DWQM Strategic Gap Analysis tool, Water Safety Plans etc.

 

The conference provided an intensive insight into the special problems and challenges of the drinking water sector in Southern Africa and enabled an vivid and intensive exchange between regional water experts from the developing countries in Southern Africa and the industrialised EU countries. Techneau will continue to cooperate with the region on several levels. Case studies such as a risk assessment study for the Goreangeab plant in Windhoek as well as training courses and training materials will strengthen the link between the South African region and the Techneau team. Gerhard Offringa from WRC and Chris Swartz continue to serve as regional contact persons. Dissemination of Techneau results shall be further promoted by distributing the Techneau Newsletter via the Water Institute of South Africa and their website (www.wisa.org.za).

 

For further information, contact Ronald Wielinga, WA8 Leader.