Johannesburg — The government needs to define a universal value for water in order to make water efficiency and treatment processes in industry more appealing to the sector.
THE government needs to define a universal value for water in order to make water efficiency and treatment processes in industry more appealing to the sector, says Rob Wilcox, the Asia Pacific and Africa marketing manager for water treatment company Nalco’s mining unit.
Experts warn that SA faces a water crisis. The Environment and Conservation Association said last month it was estimated that in five years, almost 80% of SA’s fresh water would be so badly polluted that no process of purification available in the country would be able to clean it sufficiently to make it fit for consumption.
Mr Wilcox said last week that defining a universal value for water would help industry to re-use water and treat pollution . He was speaking after a discussion with business executives on acid mine drainage and water scarcity, among other issues.
Acid mine drainage refers to acidic water which can contain heavy metals and is produced from mining activities.
While technology was available to treat acid mine drainage, it was an issue that required political and financial will, he said. “Until there is a defined value for water, it is hard to do the financial justification for treatment of acid mine drainage,” Mr Wilcox said.
The value placed on each litre of water varies from the “free” water taken out of a river or collected from rain, to bottled water which costs more than oil. Establishing a universal value for water was a global problem, he said.
Although it was expensive to treat acid mine water, waiting for the technology to become cheaper was not an option.
Reverse osmosis treatment processes produce high-quality potable water, but at a cost higher than municipalities were paying for water at present.
Mr Wilcox said there needed to be a financial return for water treatment. One mining operation had achieved zero discharge of polluted water, and re-used all the water generated by its activities, but this came at a cost, he said.
But reducing water pollution was now part of the social contract between mines and the community. Increasing water scarcity has put pressure on companies to use water more efficiently, but the lack of skills had made it more difficult to do this, Mr Wilcox said.
Smart technology could also help save water. In the case of eThekwini municipality, wireless technology was being used. Beyond Wireless uses cellphone networks and the internet to ensure leaks and equipment failures are detected rapidly. A burst pipe can mean water losses of between 2kl of water an hour and 20kl of water an hour, company CEO, Ian Lester said .
A leak of 10kl of water per hour resulted in a loss equivalent to an Olympic-sized swimming pool over two days, at a cost of R130 000, he said.
The technology was also being used to monitor waste-water treatment facilities and power substations. Treating water by reverse osmosis can cost R10/per cubic metre.
Treated water could be sold for R3/per cubic metre, according to environmental activist Mariette Liefferink.
Source – Allafrica.com