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Recycled water will create employment

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 16 February 2011

If SA was able to recycle its total national water resource 1,7 times over by 2035, the country’s unemployment problem would be solved, International Water Resources Association vice-president Anthony Turton said yesterday.

We will create jobs and lose them again if we don’t recycle our water. Photo: Reuters

SA’s government is battling a 24% unemployment rate (4,1-million people), as measured by Statistics SA in the last quarter of last year, and has promised, in its New Growth Path economic plan, to create 5- million jobs by 2020.

While the ability to recycle water would not of itself create jobs, without this ability the necessary preconditions for the kind of economic growth that would create jobs would not be in place, Dr Turton told Business Day after his presentation to the inaugural Water and Energy Forum which ended in Sandton yesterday.

“We can incentivise and do whatever we like, but we will create jobs and lose them again if we don’t recycle our water…. In order to sustain growth we need 62-billion cubic metres of water and we have 3 8- billion cubic metres now,” he said.

However, for the first time in history SA’s economic and infrastructure development was constrained by environmental considerations, Dr Turton said in his presentation. SA’s water resources were increasingly compromised by growing demand and looming pollution problems from decades of mining that did not take the environment into consideration.

Added to this, the peak in SA’s coal production — on which the country’s energy grid is largely dependent — would come near 2020, he said. “Acid rain” was poised to obliterate up to 80% of SA’s mielie industry, a strong economic driver for the country.

Furthermore, while SA’s large platinum reserves might be a new driver of growth, the country’s platinum mines were deep and depended on a lot of energy and water.

Coal-based energy also depended on clean water and there were looming food security problems related to land reform that would coincide with peak water demand, he said.

“The game has changed forever…. We can’t use today’s science and yesterday’s experience to plan for tomorrow, ” Without action, SA would “crash and burn”, but this could be obviated by developing the technology to recycle its water.

Eskom yesterday became the latest in a short list of South African companies to sign the United Nations CEO Water Mandate, pledging to include water considerations in all its business decisions. It also undertook to set water conservation targets for itself and to conduct a water use assessment of its operations, Eskom water procurement manager Nandha Govender said.

University of the Witwatersrand geoscientist Terence McCarthy proposed a moratorium on new mining in the Vaal, Usutu and Komati river basins until an impact study was undertaken to determine potential damage. If an economically viable mitigation process was not found, there should be no further coal mining in these catchment areas or there would be a massive ecological disaster, Prof McCarthy said.

While pollution was often kept in check during mining, once mining ceased “problems” arose when the workings flooded about 10 years later, he said. “The ground is sterilised…. Everything dies.”

However, Dr Turton said, acid mine drainage was not, as widely believed, SA’s major water problem. “Microcystis (algae) is our big problem and one-third of the water in all our dams is affected,” he said.

By: Sue Blaine
Source: Business Day

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