Water Treatment in South Africa: The Challenges and Solutions

What if we told you that water covers 70% of the earth’s surface—with 97% salt water and 3% freshwater? Of the 3%, less than 1% is portable, and by 2030, the water demand will exceed supply by 17%. But it’s not just overpopulation and climate change that are to blame.

South Africa’s municipal water treatment plants are in a bad state and have reached a “tipping point” in incompetence and neglect. A recent report revealed that out of South Africa’s 850 water treatment plants, only 7% comply with benchmarks and standards. While the government estimates an upgrade to cost around R900 billion—they don’t even have two-thirds of the amount.

As the 30th driest country, South Africa is continually assessing how best to balance sustainable water supply with ever-growing demand—and the conclusion is that South Africa’s water challenges must not isolate from sustainable water treatment solutions. Here’s how the latest water treatment solutions are addressing South Africa’s current water challenges.

Utilise the ocean using high performance patented reverse osmosis technology

From agriculture, mining, and oil to manufacturing—just about every industry in South Africa is feeling the pinch. Although some can reduce their water consumption, for others, a reduction means compromising assets and product quality.

The solution? With over 70% of the earth made up of seawater – and over one-quarter of the world’s population living within less than 25 kilometres of the ocean, seawater desalination is a vital technology for water treatment.

Desalination is a saving grace to industries and communities. It converts seawater to potable water using processes such as nanofiltration or desalination technology. This process can help businesses and communities produce up to 25 million gallons of potable water per day.

Take NuWater, for instance, a key player in the South African water waste management sector. To help power companies reclaim and reuse wastewater, NuWater designed, built and operated the world’s first full-scale seawater desalination plant in Singapore using their high performing patented Reverse Osmosis Membrane Technology.

Setting new benchmarks in performance, productivity, and reliability globally, this technology reclaims 55 million litres a day of high-quality water from secondary sewage water for reuse by industry and people. Utilising a 16-inch diameter of the membrane element, which leaves behind any trace of salt, minerals or contaminants, the water is of such a high quality that they use much of it in the manufacture of sensitive electronic wafers.

Reduce operational costs and improve efficiency with plant rentals

Energy consumption and traditional water management and treatment methods are the most significant challenges facing water treatment plants today. Large, centralised infrastructure projects are expensive, inflexible, and take too long to deliver. For this very reason, businesses view water treatment systems as a sunk cost, with many sacrificing upgrades and maintenance repairs to save money.

Many businesses fail to grasp that ineffective monitoring, measurement, management, and maintenance lead to unnecessary operational costs and downtime.

The solution? Rent a customised water treatment plant, a modular unit or a full-scale industrial design-and-build project that includes installation, daily operations management and ongoing maintenance. With the focus on plant automation, remote monitoring and data-driven performance management, this innovative business model reduces operational costs and downtime, protects assets, and improves efficiency while making better-informed technology upgrade decisions based on quantifiable investment returns.

Reduce environmental footprint and stimulate growth and revenue with green technologies

Wastewater treatment is critical to keeping our environment sustainable, but wastewater plants also leave an environmental footprint after the treatment process. The organic matter stripped from the water must go somewhere, right?

The solution? Wastewater is now considered more as an energy resource than as waste. Holding opportunities that stimulate economies and build significant revenue potential, green innovative wastewater technologies improve treated wastewater. And with automation and innovation moving forward, the industry can look forward to a variety of new technologies that can produce revenue while also protecting the environment and the ecosystem.

We design, build, operate and finance water treatment plants.

NuWater, a technology-led company that designs, engineers, builds, finances, and operates advanced wastewater plants – providing high-quality drinking and industrial process water from sea, river, ground and wastewater sources, is at the forefront of innovation in the water sector.

We address South Africa’s water-energy nexus by pushing technology forward to improve water management systems while maintaining energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness. We focus on minimising the impact on the environment and empowering communities and industries with water treatment solutions that create a sustainable supply of high-quality water.

We are leading the way in RO, Membrane Bioreactor, Ultra and Micro-Filtration Technologies.

Leading the way in world-class domestic, commercial and industrial reverse osmosis technology, membrane bioreactor technology, and ultra and micro-filtration technologies, we deliver projects across the entire water cycle that balances social, economic and environmental priorities.

At NuWater, we believe that being a South African company with an in-depth understanding of the local market, combined with our proven world-leading technology and years of experience, positions us to play a valuable role in addressing South Africa’s water security challenges.

To learn more about our intelligent water treatment solutions—chat with us today.