Waste not, want not – the reality of the water crisis

Waste not, want not – the reality of the water crisis

By John Ackermann and Ilana Koegelenberg

The Energy, Water and Waste Forum took place on 19 October 2017 in Cape Town, aimed at sharing practical knowledge and support for taking action amid the water-scarcity climate and other environmental issues.

Hosted by the City of Cape Town, the 25th forum took place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) and boasted over 400 delegates. The forum showcased case studies, expert views, panel discussions, and the City of Cape Town’s updates on financing options, innovation, policy and training, and advisory opportunities mostly focused on getting through the water crisis.

Running alongside the forum was an exhibition where 34 service providers shared various systems and equipment available for water conservation, including options for water recycling and rainwater harvesting.

WF001Les Lange (left), manufacturer of WaterBank based in Krugersdorp, with Carl Bayhack of Future Comfort, distributor of WaterBank in Cape Town.
Image credit: John Ackermann

This was not the first Energy, Water and Waste Forum, but due to the current drought situation affecting the Cape, last year’s forum centred heavily on water — although it did touch on energy and waste as well.

Among the keynote speakers was the Mayor of the City of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille, who praised Capetonians for rising to the challenge when it came to saving water and being innovative in finding solutions to becoming water resilient.

De Lille did not mince her words and had a clear message: “We must accept that in future, drought will be normal, and we can no longer rely on rain as our primary source of water. We are appealing to business people to partner with the City. Business people have the ability to drive change and innovation and they need to partner with the City to overcome the water crisis. Cape Town needs to reduce water usage to 500 million litres a day to last until March 2018 and this can only be achieved if we all work together.” <italic> (Ed.’s note: It has since been reduced to 450 million litres.)

WF002Peter Flower (centre), director for Water and Sanitation at the City of Cape Town, responded to questions from delegates about the City’s water infrastructure.
Image credit: John Ackermann

A total of 55 000 users were identified as not participating in saving water and their consumption would be tracked.

“We also need to dispel the myth that water is wasted by informal settlements,” said De Lille. “In reality, they only use 4% of the City’s water while residential homes’ use is at 55%.”

De Lille gave some insight into the measures taken to reduce water wastage. “At the beginning of 2017, the water usage was 1 000 million litres a day and needed to be halved. The City has employed 4 000 additional people just to attend to leaks in the city and we are engaging with the agricultural sector to reduce their consumption. The holiday season with the many tourists coming into Cape Town could increase consumption by 1% but fortunately, it is also the time when industry and the builders close and this will help to offset the increase.”

De Lille concluded with a clear message: “It is no good blaming the ills of the past as it will not help the present or the future. We all need to stand together and for our own good, tackle the water shortage head on. Cape Town has the lowest level of unemployment in South Africa because of partnerships with business. With the same approach we will not let the taps run dry.”

WF003Helene Fourie was on hand to promote the unique features of the Optima dry steamer.
Image credit: John Ackermann

Speakers all referred to the critical period as March 2018 when the present storage will be depleted, but hopefully, this will intersect with the new rainfall season and the effects of initiatives to find alternative supplies. <italic> (Ed.’s note: This has since been adjusted to May 2018.)

Pressure measurement zones have been identified and pressure-limiting devices have been installed, according to De Lille.

Not all water is equal

Peter Flower, director of the Water and Sanitation Department of the City of Cape Town, addressed various issues relating to water and the quality thereof. It was interesting to note that there is a much wider use of treated effluent water for irrigation, earthworks, and construction sites around Cape Town. However, Flower warned everyone that this water should not be used for mixing cement/concrete as it could have an impact on the strength of the concrete.

He also addressed the issue of the impact of reduced water pressure on firefighting. He emphasised that the City has a responsibility to provide potable water to all its citizens, but does not have an obligation regarding the pressure at which it is supplied. Therefore, users should make their own arrangements for having the required pressures for fighting fires. He also strongly recommended that users discuss this matter with their risk assessors.

WF004There was a huge focus towards saving water on the exhibition side, too. Since then, the 87 litres have been reduced even further.
Image credit: John Ackermann

Flower made an interesting comparison about desalination plants and feeding water into the network from around the coast. He likened it to a hand: Our central water supply comes from the inland dams (palm of the hand) and then gets supplied to users at the coast (end of the fingertips). If we now start producing water at the coast and start pushing it back into the system to feed users further from the coast, we will require changes to our piping and pumping infrastructure. The pipes start at the dams as very large and those feeding areas at the coast are much smaller. If the main source of water is at the coast, we will need to make the necessary changes, which are not that easy in the very short term.

Although there was a lot of discussion about desalination, everyone was reminded that it is like a double-edged sword, as it uses a lot of energy and is responsible for a lot of carbon emissions, too.

Although there was a lot of discussion about desalination, everyone was reminded that it is like a double-edged sword, as it uses a lot of energy and is responsible for a lot of carbon emissions, too.

Flower also spoke about what he referred to as ‘delinquent users’ — people who have ignored all appeals to cut back on their water usage. He said that he hoped that as the situation deteriorates further, the delinquents would do something about changing their wastage habits.

He acknowledged that the City itself was faced with many challenges and was employing a wide variety of initiatives to address the problem, especially in lieu of the fact that they had 11 000km of pipework to service and maintain. Every detail is being considered. As an example, all fire tenders are kept full at all times with treated grey water.

WF005The forum, which took place in Cape Town, was well attended.
Image credit: John Ackermann

Pressure-limiting devices have been installed in the supply to areas that can cope with reduced water pressures during certain periods.

It was interesting to note the comments about water footprints — how much water is needed to produce our food? People are not just looking at carbon footprints anymore but water, too. For instance, when consuming meat, one must actually consider how much water in total was used to produce that product.

A panel discussion took place where various presenters discussed their own experiences.

Leading by example

JG Afrika, Growth Point properties, The Vineyard Hotel, South African Breweries (SAB), and Netcare showcased their water journey successes.

John Stenslunde of SAB presented on the various water initiatives in place at the SAB Newlands Brewery. Fortunately, the Newlands Brewery draws all its water usage from a natural spring and has no usage taken from the City’s supply of potable water. Elsewhere in the country, SAB has managed to realise a 21% reduction in water usage. This was done by swift action in repairing any leaks and monitoring of usage with daily reporting.

WF006The signed pledge by the Cape Town members of FEDHASA to reduce water consumption, as presented by Jeff Rosenberg, Cape chairperson.
Image credit: John Ackermann

Roy Davies, general manager of The Vineyard Hotel, also recounted their water-saving initiatives. He was upbeat and said initially, they were hesitant as to what could be done about water usage. They started by fitting meters in different parts of the hotel to monitor where the water was being used. For instance, they identified that in the kitchen, the water usage was extremely high. They then went further and identified that the water was actually from a dishwasher and this machine was bypassing water at a fantastic rate. They immediately got that repaired and saved thousands of litres per month.

“Our guests have become very supportive of all our water-saving initiatives. One lady guest even handed in her bath plug as she thought it had been left there by mistake. Through various staff and guest awareness programmes, The Vineyard managed to save 24.5% on water from April to September 2017 when compared to the same period the year before,” Davies said.

Following on the panel discussion, the signed pledge by the Cape Town members of the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (FEDHASA) to reduce water consumption and in all their facilities, presented by Jeff Rosenberg, Cape chairperson, received a rousing applause by all the delegates. “FEDHASA Cape supports the Western Cape province and the City of Cape Town’s water-saving initiatives and we challenge all associations and businesses to take urgent action to save water.”

Saving water in refrigeration

In refrigeration, the use of evaporative condensers is of major concern. Kevin Schlemmer of CoolCheck drew the attention of delegates to how water usage of evaporative condensers is influenced by the efficiency of the plant. The water usage on many systems would be reduced significantly if the plants were operating more efficiently.

WF007A panel of key players from JG Afrika, Growth Point properties, The Vineyard Hotel, South African Breweries (SAB), and Netcare showcased their water journey successes.
Image credit: John Ackermann

“HVAC&R systems with cooling towers can consume as much as 50% of the potable water in commercial buildings. For industrial food production and agro-processing, this usage can increase to 80%,” explained Schlemmer.

Water safety

There was a great deal of emphasis on the fact that one has to be cautious in terms of using grey water. There are by-laws that govern water that comes into contact with the body, such as drinking water and even the water in swimming pools. Treatment is crucial to ensure safety.

Day Zero

It is now a couple of months later and we are inching closer to Day Zero …

Have all the promises and talk of 19 October materialised? According to some politicians, it is inevitable that Cape Town becomes the first metropole city in the world to have the taps run dry in May 2018.

Officially, at the time of going to print, the date has moved out to mid-May thanks to a drop off in agricultural use of water. Currently, the agriculture sector is drawing about 30% of the water in the supply scheme. According to the City, this should fall to about 15% in March and 10% in April.

As of 1 February 2018, level 6B water restrictions and tariffs have come into effect to help finance water services and to reduce usage.

WF008The City of Cape Town put in a lot of effort to promote
water saving, including this colourful visual display.
(Now it seems 87 litres was still conservative.)

Image credit: John Ackermann

To cover the costs of water and sanitation provision, and to assist in driving down demand further, the water and sanitation tariffs have been increased. The tariffs remain based on usage. The more you use, the more you pay. High users will be hit especially hard. The City claims not to make a profit on the sale of water.

New rates and level 6B restrictions are part of the City’s efforts to avoid Day Zero and to create financial stability for the provision of water services. Although usage is down from 1.1 billion litres a day to just under 600 million litres a day, it needs to get to 450 million litres of collective usage a day to avoid Day Zero.

 Click below to read the March/April 2018 issue of Cold Link Africa



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