Saturday, 4 November 2017

Desalination Era is here

Desalination Costs coming down.

 "Israeli scientists work to make desalination more efficient and affordable, among them, developed a chemical-free system using porous lava stone to capture the microorganisms before they reach the membranes. It's just one of the many breakthroughs in membrane technology that have starkly lowered the cost of desalination. Desalination used to be an expensive energy hog, but the scientists changed the game. Inside Sorek, the Israeli desalination plant that is the world's largest and most advanced, it costs just a third of what it did in the 1990s to desalinate sea water. Sorek can produce a thousand liters of drinking water for 58 cents. Israeli households pay about US$30 a month for their water - similar to households in most U.S. cities, and far less than Las Vegas (US$47) or Los Angeles (US$58)."

Friday, 3 November 2017


27 October 2017
SA Water Institute on Western Cape water crisis
The water sector is filled with scientists and engineers that are trained to design, operate, and maintain a very complex system that needs to collect, treat, and distribute water to sustain life and business for South African citizens.
Some of the challenges that these professionals face do indeed stem from unethical practices in both the public and private sector, but the current drought crisis adds an environmental component that places the existing water structures under extreme pressure.
Water professionals have already been consulted in all possible alternative supply methods – including greywater reuse, stormwater harvesting, groundwater management, water efficiency at the city and in businesses, managed aquifer recharge, desalination, and wastewater reclamation as options. The city has also now adopted water sensitive design principles and we hope they lead the way for the rest of South Africa around integrated water supply and management.
The water sector is caught between a rock and a very dry place, and the worst response would be one that brings immediate relief that is not balanced by longer term responsibility.
The conversation in traditional and social media should not be around the format of the eventual solution, but of the various roles that need to be played in its implementation.
WISA is not a regulatory body, and neither is it a platform for environmental activism. It does not act as watchdog but rather provides facilitation opportunities for water professionals to share and grow their knowledge.
We have however been implored by our members to raise our representative voice on their behalf.
We urge all water professionals to have the courage to blow the whistle on activities they are aware of that is hindering the timely implementation of a responsible solution. There are several independent whistleblowing lines in South Africa that are equipped to deal with sensitive information and protect the identity of those that decide to not stand for corruption any longer.
We also implore journalists to use their best investigative skills to find balanced facts and not get caught in publishing information that promotes sensationalist activism. Sensational stories make it very difficult for those that are already working on solutions to keep their focus and spend their energy on what they need to do; deliver safe water to private and corporate citizens.
We commend the City of Cape Town for its efforts in facilitating exploring solutions and communicating with its citizens, and the significant reduction of water use since the implementation of its crisis management strategy.
We however also call on the City for acts of boldness in their decision to move plans into action; now is not the time for analysis paralyses. While procurement policies have their place in business as usual, and we strongly support adherence to those policies in normal circumstances, the circumstances that threaten lives and livelihoods of Capetonians are anything but normal.
We request from National Government their strongest support for what the City of Cape Town needs to make the bold decisions they have to, and to be ready to act as soon as it’s needed.
We ask of each private individual in South Africa to treat water as a precious commodity, not as an enabler of a comfort, not as an entitlement. We urge you to take responsibility for your own water usage, and not relegate the responsibility of dealing with this crisis to those that will be impacted first and hardest.
We warn anyone that considers creating their own solutions to stay within the boundaries of the law and the City’s regulations as those have ultimately been created to protect shared resources for all. Contravening these regulations will be seen as an ultimate act of selfishness once the crisis has been averted.
In the end, if we do not all take a hard look into what we’ve condoned so far in terms of our water use and systems, we will soon run out of time to look.

Water Abundance in Cape Town?

Cape Town. For immediate release:
A new water crisis initiative has been launched to identify and push through three multi-billion rand projects to restore water security to Cape Town.
The aim is to move the agenda from a focus on water scarcity to one of abundance.
The new initiative is being launched following a meeting in Cape Town on Thursday of the Water Leapathon Advisory Board, a strategy forum which brings together representatives of business, academia, government, labour and concerned citizens.
“We have two areas of focus,” said Cape Messenger CEO Martin Humphries, who chaired the forum.
“In the short term we will help with getting the message across, and helping to mobilise businesses and individuals to take steps to cut water consumption.
“For this, we will identify examples of success, and share them.
“We are also convinced that there needs to be more thought about the long term.”
He said that for a longer-term response to the water crisis, three mega-projects will be identified and driven to completion.
“The framework we are seeking is public-private partnerships,” he said.
“We are not tied to any strategy: if water treatment or re-use is the best and cheapest way to go, we will follow that path.
“Similarly, we will look closely at large-scale desalination.
“The methods are much less important than achieving the objective.”
A Water Leapathhon emergency summit is being held in Cape Town at the end of November to advance the agenda.
“This cannot come too soon,” said Humphries.
“The politicians have been struggling, and now business must step up to the mark.
“The technology is available, funding can be raised. If there is red tape, it must not be allowed to hold us back.
“We need a catalyst to move things forward, and we are taking on that role. We are also determined to involve all stakeholders. The blame game has achieved nothing.”
Said leading water strategist Professor Anthony Turton: “We must change the discourse into one of water abundance. We must get across the message that it is not just about the water which people consume.
“We must not be blind to the water needs of the economy.
“We need to understand the water efficiencies of each economic sector.”
He explained that a unit of water consumed in tourism creates more jobs than one drop used in mining.
So it is economically short-sighted to ration water use for visitors to Cape Town.
“Instead of constantly rationing foreign visitors, let them take baths and flush their toilets as often as they wish,” he suggested.
“The economic return on that unit of water is bigger than if we have the constraints of telling them to have no baths, and don’t flush the loo.”
For more information, or interview requests, contact Martin Humphries: 083 282 3874

A failed state?

From Anthony Turton on Facebook
In a previous post I noted that the water situation across the whole country is deteriorating in a domino effect of incompetence and political infighting. I suggested that we are seeing state failure happen as the fabric of social control is being ripped apart. I then suggested that three critical areas should be monitored for the lessons learned:
1) Cape Town - for proactive intervention as a narrative of scarcity is converted into a narrative of future abundance;
2) Port Shepstone (Ugu) - for a failed state scenario;
3) and Gauteng - for a major city that has lost its water security due to state capture activities, that will inevitably plunge the local economy into increasing crisis as a result of the loss of resilience, but could still be turned around if credible leadership emerges in time.
This post is about (2) Ugu, where we now have a form of water war underway. The water war literature is broadly divided into two genres:
a) conflict over water (typically the result of scarcity);
b) and conflict in which hydraulic infrastructure is targeted to reach a specific objective (not directly driven by scarcity, but causing an induced scarcity as a weapon of war).
The Ugu case falls into the second category.
In a nutshell, the local municipality has been hollowed out over time by rampant criminal activities, including a drug trafficking conviction for the wife of a senior politician. There is also ongoing assassination and violence as various factions clash over control of the financial resources flowing from ratepayers to criminal syndicates. The municipality has simply lost control and factions are now sabotaging water infrastructure and threatening the lives of drivers moving water in by tanker. The ANC has lost control on the ground, and the criminal justice system has failed to investigate, arrest and bring to trial any of the perpetrators. In short, the state has failed in its core duty at this localized setting.
One of the casualties of this is Murchison Hospital, which has no water, and has had at best erratic supplies for many months now as this localized factional war has been festering. This hospital serves a large but impoverished community with a high level of HIV/AIDS. In a previous post I suggested that this is a second Esidemini unfolding before our eyes, unless we intervene in time. The Department of Health is either unwilling, or unable to intervene; and the Department of Water and Sanitation is equally ineffective. In short, this is a text book case study of state failure at localized level, but with roots in national departments in crisis due to internal criminal activities of their own. Left on its own, we are now likely to see the death toll mounting as factions clash violently, and as impoverished people are left to die as a result of a failed health care system. Property values will be under pressure and start to crash as confidence is lost and people's life savings are destroyed. The Ugu district is home to many pensioners, as well as a large population of deeply poor rural citizens. In short, this is a tragedy that is more than simply an object of academic curiosity. It is symptomatic of what can happen across the entire country if the status quo is allowed to prevail.
So while all eyes are on Cape Town as they dodge the bullet, let us not forget the human tragedy unfolding in KZN; but let us also not loose sight of the fact that state capture dynamics have eroded resilience in Gauteng, placing that economic hub at growing risk until 2025.
If you care about our country, please reflect on this and do what you feel needs to be done to make a difference.