Deteriorating water quality – a greater threat than climate change

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 23 November 2010

SA needs to spend R360bn over the next 15 years on water treatment plants to secure its water supply.

Deteriorating water quality is arguably a greater threat to SA than climate change

The country also urgently needs to deal with acid mine drainage and invest in renewable energy, which does not pollute as much. This is according to a report released yesterday — H2O – CO2 Energy Equations for SA: Present Status, Future Scenarios and Proposed Solutions — which includes projections until 2025.

It was compiled by the Africa Earth Observatory Network, which is linked to the University of Cape Town.

The government has formed a task team to deal with acid mine drainage — the polluted water resulting from mining — but few details of its proposed solution have been made available.

According to the authors of the report, Stephanie de Villiers and Maarten de Wit, discussions about future usage of fossil fuels must also consider the environmental costs associated with coal, including the effect on water. Continue reading

Bulk water augmentation project to cost City R1.7-billion

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 04 May 2010

The [Cape Town] city council will soon be asked to give the financial green light to a R1,7-billion, multi-year bulk water augmentation project.

Berg River Dam

A report discussed at the utility services portfolio committee yesterday notes that additional bulk water supply infrastructure has become critical, to increase the water treatment, bulk storage and conveyance capacity of the city’s bulk water supply system.

The total capital cost of the bulk water augmentation system is estimated at R1,7bn, and the implementation time frame at about six years.

In his budget speech in March, mayoral committee (Mayco) member for finance Ian Neilson said while the scheme would not significantly affect the 2010/11 financial year’s budget, a tariff increase, projected to be 8 percent above inflation, would need to be phased in in subsequent years.

The additional infrastructure was necessary to ensure the system could continue to supply potable water during peak demand periods, as population and economic growth fuelled demand.

“If the infrastructure is not implemented timeously, the risk of having to implement water restrictions in some areas of Cape Town, or across the entire city during peak water demand periods in the hot dry summer months, will progressively increase,” the report said. Continue reading

Water quality deteriorating fast warns MP

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 16 April 2010

“Your department has let South Africa down, and seriously so,” Democratic Alliance MP Annette Lovemore told Water Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica.

Lovemore, speaking during debate on the water affairs budget vote in the National Assembly, called on the minister to show “vital, critical and urgent leadership to address the current shocking level of mismanagement of our water resources”.

Excessive concentrations of nutrients stimulates algal growth resulting in the decrease of water quality and the emergence of harmful algal blooms.

Ground and surface water quality in South Africa was deteriorating fast, and people had died after drinking polluted water, she said.

“Animals in the Kruger National Park and ecosystems across the country are under threat. Tourism is compromised by the eutrophication of rivers and dams. Water treatment costs are escalating due to poor raw water quality.

“Farmers are unable to irrigate with polluted river water. The availability of water to sustain economic development and human and environmental health is diminishing. Opportunities are being seriously undermined,” Lovemore said.

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa told MPs they were sitting on a time bomb. Continue reading

Commercial washing powders destroy wetland

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 06 March 2010

The recommendation in a report addressed to the ‘Catchment Management section of the Cape Metropolitan Council’ into the catastrophic poisoning of a wetland in 1999 was never actioned. Are we to see a repeat of this past devastation?

In 1997 there was a catastrophic poisoning of the Wildevoelvlei, one of the Noordhoek Valley Wetlands. A highly toxic blue-green bloom formed on the surface of the lakes as a result of wastewater overflowing from water treatment works. The treated and untreated water had a high concentration of phosphates – a major component of washing powder. SANParks eventually turned the lake anoxic, thereby killing an entire generation of organisms.

Algal bloom

Whatever happened to the recommendations contained in a report 2 years later entitled “The Ecological status of the Wetlands of the Noordhoek Valley”, written by Bryan Davies and Anja Gassner?

According to the report South Africans wastefully use expensive potable water, “necessitating the construction of large complex and very expensive water supply schemes”. Supply schemes that have a “profound ecological and social cost of which the public is lamentably unaware”.

The cause of the pollution problems experienced for the vleis of the Noordhoek Valley is put down to the volume of phosphates contained in commercial washing powders.

The solution and recommendation in the report was for the reuse of Grey Water for irrigation purposes by all households and commercial enterprises. By reusing grey water the volume of phosphates reaching the sewage treatment works would be halved, and the necessity for further expensive water augmentation schemes would be avoided.

At what cost has this report’s recommendation been ignored?

Read the report extract: The Ecological status of the Wetlands of the Noordhoek Valley
Related articles: Too much water going to waste – expert
City warns residents not to swim in Westlake River

Safe to drink – but not for laundry

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 11 February 2010

Manufacturing industries in King William’s Town were blamed yesterday for the contamination of the Buffalo River, which serves water systems to various residential areas.

Buffalo River. Photo by Teresa Schultz

Drinking water in King, Breidbach, Zwelitsha, Bhisho, Sweetwaters and Ndevana, which are supplied from the Laing Water Treatment Works, has been contaminated for more than two weeks now. The Amatola Water Board confirmed that there were high levels of manganese and iron in the water, which affected the colour, but said it was safe to drink.

Residents have complained about the colour and smell of the water and have resorted to forking out hundreds of rands on buying bottled water. King resident Mandla Xishe said it was difficult to use the water because of its smell. “This is terrible and as a ratepayer, I’m not supposed to be experiencing this kind of treatment. This has been going on for too long, but seemingly there is no solution.”

Xishe said he feared people would start suffering from stomach problems. “They are now exposing us to diarrhoea and other stomach infections. This is totally unacceptable.”

Another King resident, Heather Farrow, said: “This is getting serious and I know some people had stomach pains.” She said it was unacceptable to have the problem dragging on for weeks.

Bhisho resident Nqaba Mpendu said he had spent over R500 buying bottled water . “You can imagine how this is affecting me during the current recession.” He said he couldn’t cook using the tap water because of its brown colour and smell.

Sweetwaters resident Noxolo Bloom said she had been unable to prepare food for her children. “Life is really difficult. This water is not safe for children and I’ve resorted to buying bottled water and it costs us a lot,” she said.

King supermarkets said residents had been coming in to buy bottled water in quantity, while others said they had been acquiring more stock for the coming weeks.

Amatola Water Board chief executive officer Xola Bomela tried to allay fears and said the water was safe to drink. “From an operational point of view, we flushed out the reservoir and reticulation pipes. We then tested the water and found if to be safe to drink,” said Bomela.

Bomela cautioned residents, though, not to use the water to do laundry as it could affect the colour of the clothing. “We are working hard with investigations and we are monitoring the presence of metal on a daily basis. We are also working with the BCM (Buffalo City Municipality) Health Department. We will go into all these areas and take samples,” he said.

BCM spokesperson Keith Ngesi said more tests were being conducted at the municipal laboratory.

Source: Dispatch online