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Solutions to save South African water

In an article that was published by The Times Live, 2010 Jan 25, Anthony Turton, vice-president of the International Water Resource Association, laid out 3 of the largest challenges facing South African water.

The three major challenges are:

  1. Acid mine drainage. Unless precautions are taken now old gold mining voids will fill and start to decant large volumes of highly saline, extremely toxic and, in some cases, radioactive, water into our major river systems. The cost of environmental remediation is estimated to already exceed the gold reserves left in the ground
  2. Eutrophication management. This challenge is dual sided. First our sewage systems need a upgrade, the current cost for these upgrades are estimated to be at R18-billion. Secondly, we need to lower the phosphate levels of treated sewage leaving wastewater treatment plants. Higher concentrations in phosphates give rise to the blue green algae booms and waterbody toxicities that we have experience over the past several years. (Rietvlei)
  3. Management of endocrine disruption in our stressed aquatic ecosystems. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals include a wide range of compounds that affect [the body’s] endocrine system in all creatures that live off affected water bodies.

Unfortunately most South Africans are unaware of the role they can play in the second challenge, eutrophication management of wastewater.

When it comes to finding simple solutions to the first side to this challenge of sewage system upgrades, the main issue is municipalities are already running a tight budget and are struggling to find funds, yet alone funding for a R18 billion upgrade. The role that we as South Africans can play is to limit the amount of water we send to the treatment plants. (Toilet flushing, and Grey water.) Here I refer to water demand reduction by reusing water. It is the quantity of waste water that these plants struggle to cope with, not the quality of this water mix.

The other side of this challenge involving eutrophication, the phosphate and nitrogen levels in water. Phosphates are largely found in laundry detergents, the main purpose they serve is as a water softener and do little in the cleaning process. In many municipalities the water we receive is already soft and phosphates are not needed. A solution might be to switch to a phosphate free laundry detergent. The rule of thumb is, if the box doesn’t state it is phosphate free, it will contain phosphate. A phosphate free brand that I would recommend is Eco-Soft.

For household water saving ideas and systems contact Alje van Hoorn
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