IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT
“We have a phrase – the way nature does it. Most of our clients are in remote areas and therefore the supply and transport of chemicals will always be a problem. The fewer chemicals used, the more environmentally friendly the process. Furthermore, there are always safety concerns when handling the chemicals.”
The official magazine of the Water Institute of Southern Africa Promoting professional excellence in the water sector Water & Sanitation Africa Complete water resource and wastewater management Endress+Hauser WHY DO SANITATION PROJECTS NEVER SCALE UP? BRINGS THE LABORATORY TO THE FIELD Water: yesterday, today and tomorrow HOT SEAT IN THE
Leon du Casse MD, Bio Sewage Systems P10 September/October 2023 • ISSN 1990-8857 • R55.00 (incl. VAT) • Vol. 18 No. 05 Meet the only chitosan manufacturer in Africa INDUSTRY INSIGHT Akin Akinsete Programme Manager SASTEP Disrupting the sanitation space through collaboration
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challenge of ﬁnding
balance between plant
with industry standards and legal requirements.
No single entity, whether it's the Department of Water and Sanitation or a research institution such as the Water Research Commission, can attain SDG 6.2 in isolation. It is with this collaborative mindset that the South African Sanitation Technology Enterprise Programme (SASTEP) was established. P18 INDUSTRY INSIGHT
Leon Du Casse, managing director of Bio Sewage Systems, used to own a plastic recycling company. His interest in water was piqued when dealing with wastewater created from washing plastic items to remove pollutants. Today, Leon is at the helm of Bio Sewage Systems, and is passionate about recycling water. P16
IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT FLUSHING 24 CONTENTS ON THE COVER Endress+Hauser, a global leader in process automation and measurement instrumentation, believes that water quality testing in the field and laboratory plays a crucial role in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 by identifying potential health and environmental risks. P6 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 Water& Sanitation Africa Complete water resource and wastewater management Endress+Hauser WHY DO SANITATION PROJECTS NEVER SCALE UP? BRINGS THE LABORATORY TO THE FIELD Water: yesterday, today and tomorrow HOT SEAT IN THE therefore the supply and transport of chemicals will always be pr used, the more environmentally friendly the process. Furthermor here are always safety Leon du Casse Meet the only chitosan manufacturer in Africa INDUSTRY INSIGHT SASTEP Disrupting the sanitation space through collaboration IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT FLUSHING VOL. 18 NO. 05 A STRATEGY FOR SANITATION SUCCESS 43 THE WISH LIST: HIGH-QUALITY WATER, LOW WASTE VOLUMES 47 Regulars Editor’s comment 3 You said it in WASA 4 Index to advertisers 48 Cover Story Bringing the laboratory to the field 6 WISA CEO’s comment 8 Chair’s comment 9 Water: yesterday, today and tomorrow 10 Message to women: build and manage your own environment 12 Maximising pulsator clarifying performance 13 Hot Seat Chemical-free underground toilets for mines 16 Industry Insight Disrupting the sanitation space through collaboration 18 Profile Bringing a sustainable water supply to customers 20 Product Focus Elevating African lives through a sanitation revolution 22 Non-Sewered Sanitation It’s not all about flushing 24 From human waste to prosperity: the sanitation economy 26 Flushing solution for non-sewered sanitation 28 School Sanitation School sanitation: how difficult is it? 32 Quality education and sanitation at Tsholetsega Primary 36 Innovation Why do sanitation projects never scale up? 38 Meet the only chitosan manufacturer in Africa 40 Where are you on the road to water digitisation? 42 Sludge A strategy for sanitation success 43 The wish list: high-quality water, low waste volumes 47 13
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• Anaerobic Sludge Processes
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Sanitation is the underdog, it is the ‘poor cousin’ of the water sector. But just like water, it is a basic human right and has a direct impact on water quality. This was mentioned in Dan Naidoo’s column (page 9). I have always rooted for the underdog: I jumped for joy when Leicester City won the English Premier League title in 2015 (I am actually a Derby County supporter), I take a special interest in small businesses and revel in their success, I watch indie films that are under-funded, and make a point of reading books from first-time authors. And I will feature as many stories as possible of companies, organisations, and academics that push the sanitation agenda.
According to Dr Jennifer Molwantwa, CEO, WRC: “Where you are born should not determine the technology you get.” And yet, the poor live in fear that their children may fall into sewage pits, are scared to go to a dirty toilet at an informal settlement at night, and regularly fall sick from waterborne diseases. Sanitation has touched me deeply; it is something that most of us take for granted, but heavily affects those who do not have dignified sanitation.
This magazine is packed with stories of hope: from chemical-free toilets for underground mines (page 16) to the significant strides SASTEP has made towards creating a sanitation economy (page 18), and innovative technologies (page 22, 28, and 36). I also interviewed the dynamic sanitation team from the Department of Water and Sanitation
(DWS) on the new faecal sludge management strategy (page 43).
Sanitation and publishing have one thing in common: they desperately need to innovate. While the Sumerians in Mesopotamia built the oldest toilets known to date between 3 500 and 3 000 BC, the first business-to-business (B2B) magazines were started in the 1800s with industrial magazines like The Furrow by John Deere, which taught farming techniques to farmers, and the American Railroad Journal, which was published for miners and manufacturers.
Today, the B2B publishing model has transitioned to incorporate both print and digital. Fortunately, Water&Sanitation Africa has a digital platform, with many of its stories published on the www.infrastructurenews.co.za website, newsletter, and social media channels. Embracing digital technologies has enhanced our print offering, prompting more engagement and increased circulation.
This is one of our strongest issues to date and I am humbled by our advertisers’ support. I will continue to drive value by providing relevant, original content while continuously growing our database. Thank you for the messages of support. I look forward to working with you all.
In each issue, Water&Sanitation Africa offers companies the opportunity to get to the front of the line by placing a company, product or service on the front cover of the magazine. Buying this position will afford the advertiser the cover story and maximum exposure. For more information, contact Hanlie Fintelman on +27 (0)67 756 3132, or email email@example.com.
Copyright 2023. All rights reserved. All material herein is copyright protected. The views of contributors do not necessarily reflect those of WISA or the publishers. The ABC logo is a valued stamp of measurement and trust. WASA is ABC audited and certified.
you ask? This is the very first magazine I have published all by myself and, second, it is the ‘Dignified Sanitation’ themed edition. This is my most favourite issue Water& Sanitation Africa Complete water resource and wastewater management Endress+Hauser WHY DO SANITATION PROJECTS NEVER SCALE UP? BRINGS THE LABORATORY TO THE FIELD Water: yesterday, today and tomorrow HOT SEAT IN THE therefore the supply and transport of chemicals will always be pr used, the more environmentally friendly the process. Furthermor here are always safety Leon du Casse P10 Meet the only chitosan manufacturer in Africa INDUSTRY INSIGHT Akin Akinsete Programme Manager Disrupting the sanitation space through collaboration IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT FLUSHING
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 3
You said it in WASA
The opinions and statements shared by thought leaders in the water industry to Water&Sanitation Africa.
“The water and wastewater sector is costsensitive, and sometimes instrumentation ends up at the bottom of the list; however, monitoring a process will yield better results and optimise a plant, saving money in the long term.
Endress+Hauser has a huge toolbox of solutions for the water and wastewater sector and we are always ready to assist.” Hennie Pretorius, industry manager: Water and Wastewater, Endress+Hauser in Southern Africa
“There must be a shift in our actions if we want to herald a new era of sustainable water practices and improved sanitation. The cholera outbreak in Hammanskraal (which lead to just under 50 deaths), the 2022 flooding in eThekwini (which left many citizens displaced, cost lives, and damaged bulk water and sanitation infrastructure), and the ‘Day Zero’ reality in Nelson Mandela Bay provide ample reasons for calls to turn the tide on the water crisis.”
Dr Lester Goldman, CEO, WISA
“It’s disheartening to witness greenfield projects continue to install the antiquated flushing technology that is a burden on our water resources and infrastructure. This is because people still see a flushing toilet as the gold standard of sanitation and are either unaware of newer available technologies, do not understand their benefits, or completely disregard them as viable options.”
Dan Naidoo, chairman, WISA
“The very first 10 verses of the Bible mention water and creation. In the Quran, there is a reference to how all life is made from water. The Quran states that Allah ‘made from water every living thing’. Another verse describes how ‘Allah has created every animal from water’. In Buddhism, water is seen as a life giver that symbolises purity, clarity, and calmness. It is also believed that water was formed in the early universe during the Big Bang, as the fusion of hydrogen and oxygen atoms occurred.” Professor
Carlos Bezuidenhout, director: Environmental Sciences and Management Unit, North-West University
“A pulsator clarifier plays a crucial role in the operation of the water treatment plants, aiding in the removal of suspended solids and facilitating the clarification process. It is a simple type of up-flow tank, whose effectiveness depends on the formation of the sludge blanket.”
Kimon Padayachee, process engineer, Umgeni Water
“After interacting with some of our mining clients, we began to realise that chemical toilets in underground mines were posing a challenge. The maintenance of chemical toilets is essential to prevent malfunctions, leaks, and odours. However, accessing and servicing these toilets in the underground environment can be difficult, requiring specialised equipment and personnel. The disposal of waste from chemical toilets can also be problematic. It first needs to be transported to the surface (posing a further dilemma) and then needs to be either treated on-site or transported and treated at another facility. The buckets that carry this waste also need to be
4 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023
10 PAGE 16 PAGE
“Through collaboration, SASTEP aims to provide everyone in South Africa with access to dignified sanitation that minimises pollution, beneficiates wastes and promotes health, safety, and water security. If there is a viable technology from another country, SASTEP will find a South African company that has the requisite skill to develop that technology locally. Often, some of the aspects of the technology have to be re-engineered to suit local conditions.” Akin
“Government engineers and planners in South Africa are engaged in the delivery of improved sanitation to the 11% of South African households without sanitation services. An additional 26% of households have sanitation services that do not meet national standards for dignified sanitation. In addressing these issues, many engineers are stuck in a binary way of thinking, which is why a paradigm shift is needed. Towns and cities were generally characterised by flush toilets and piped infrastructure, while people living in townships usually use pit toilets. Full flush is extremely expensive, not only in terms of actual water consumption but also in terms of infrastructure maintenance. VIP toilets are more robust, and require less maintenance but have also been known to exhibit several issues when it comes to unpleasant odours and child safety. Additionally, VIPs and UDDTs tend to fill up quickly and can be difficult to clean.”
Brian Lewis, CEO, Envirosan Sanitation Solutions
“We are pioneers. South Africa’s water and sanitation sector has led innovation on biological nutrient removal for wastewater treatment, created a novel water law process, and the world’s largest drinking water treatment facility at Rand Water. We are also a leader in the adoption of non-sewered sanitation technologies.”
Jay Bhagwan, executive manager: Water Use and Waste Management, Water Research Commission
“The problem with sanitation is that the person making the decision on the type of toilet or system used is seldom the person who is using that toilet or system. There is a massive disconnect and often a complete lack of understanding about the reality of some of the areas where sanitation is needed. Often, there is no grid system, no water supply, no roads to transport the system, and a lack of machinery like excavators to dig holes for septic tanks. A complete paradigm shift is needed when addressing sanitation and absolutely everyone involved needs to be on the same page.”
Wayne Taljaard, MD,
“We believe that the technology has the potential to transform the landscape of the South African sanitation industry –6–9 ℓ of water is used every time a toilet is flushed. With this closed-loop system, once the tank is filled up, it does not need to fill up again – the water keeps recycling. The water saving brought to the school is huge. If everyone could embrace this closedloop environment, we would secure water for the future.”
Mark la Trobe, COO, Enviro Loo
“Pits containing faecal sludge often also contain foreign objects and household waste like shoes, cloths, nappies and sanitary pads, making it difficult to empty the toilets, reducing the storage capacity and shortening the lifespan of the pit latrine. It is then also difficult to reuse faecal sludge. The management of faecal sludge requires new skills. There is limited knowledge around its reuse that requires new skills and a mindset change as people, for instance, can be reluctant to buy food that has been fertilised by faecal sludge. People emptying or treating faecal sludge may be exposed to pathogens, so it is incredibly important to educate them around safety and for them to be fitted with personal protective equipment.” Iris
Mathye, director: Sanitation, Operational & Capacity Support, DWS
BRINGING THE LABORATORY TO THE FIELD
Endress+Hauser, a global leader in process automation and measurement instrumentation, believes that water quality testing in the field and laboratory play a crucial role in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) by identifying potential health and environmental risks.
When it comes to water quality and SDG 6, the goal emphasizes not only access to clean and safe drinking water but also the importance of improving water quality in general. Poor water quality can have significant negative impacts on human health, ecosystems, and the economy. While laboratory tests for water quality are sometimes mandatory and viewed as an accurate alternative, water quality field tests are often more convenient, cheaper, and have real-time monitoring capabilities,” explains Hennie Pretorius, industry manager: Water and Wastewater, Endress+Hauser in Southern Africa.
Drinking water quality
There are some disturbing findings in the Blue Drop Watch Report:
• Most water treatment works (WTWs) do not produce water compliant with SANS 241.
• 51% of WTWs have poor to bad microbiological water quality status.
• 71% of WTWs failed to achieve chemical compliance.
Pretorius adds that the majority of microbiological water quality monitoring is conducted by laboratories, while most chemical water quality monitoring can be done in the field. “It is possible to do chemical water quality monitoring remotely, with all the data updated in real time. This can provide an early warning when something goes wrong. Reports on water quality compliance or noncompliance can be generated with ease.”
Parameters that are frequently sampled or monitored for surface water quality include: turbidity, dissolved oxygen, pH, free chlorine, conductivity, biological oxygen demand (BOD), and temperature.
“Dissolved oxygen represents the amount of oxygen in water and is one of the more important parameters for surface water. This is because a decline in oxygen is a threat to aquatic life and may be caused by chemicals (pollution) reacting to the oxygen or biological compounds like algae absorbing the oxygen. BOD is also important because it gives the fastest indication of sewage in a water source,” states Pretorius.
Effluent water quality
The 2022 Green Drop Report also paints a worrying picture – specifically, that
6 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023
Hennie Pretorius, industry manager: Water and Wastewater, Endress+Hauser in Southern Africa
Automatic water sample Liquistation
334 wastewater treatment works (WWTWs) were identified to be in a critical state. That’s nearly 40% of all WWTWs.
“Endress+Hauser can provide in- and outflow water quality monitoring. Inflow quality monitoring can help determine the biological and hydraulic loading of a plant, and can give an early warning if the effluent is outside normal parameters. This is particularly helpful if there is a buffer tank or diversion system that can prevent harmful chemicals from entering and killing microbes in a WWTW. If the hydraulic loading is high, steps can be taken to avoid over-treatment of the effluent,” explains Pretorius.
Endress+Hauser has extensive experience in monitoring effluent – for both the private and public sector. As regulations become more stringent, it is essential to monitor all effluent parameters in real time (where possible) and collect true representative samples for confirmation using lab testing.
Remote liquid analysis
Endress+Hauser’s Liquiline transmitter platform is based on Memosens digital technology that can monitor and log up to eight different parameters in water and wastewater. Memosens sensors are connected with the Liquiline transmitter, which automatically recognises the sensor type and reads the information stored. Furthermore, many Liquiline devices –including analysers and samplers – can operate multiple Memosens sensors in any combination. With Memosens
digital technology, there is minimal signal interference and greater accuracy. Remote monitoring is done through the Netilion system.
Netilion is an award-wining, cloudbased, industrial internet of things (IIoT) ecosystem designed for industrial processes. It connects the physical and digital worlds to send valuable information from the field straight to a phone, tablet, or other device. It is not only confined to equipment from Endress+Hauser, but can provide data from different instrumentation brands.
Pretorius believes that this technology is of huge value for a municipal manager, who may be responsible to a number of WTWs or WWTWs in an area.
“The manager can view water and wastewater quality remotely via an app on their phone and will receive alerts if any parameters are out of spec. With industrial WWTWs, an environmental manager can receive effluent quality data in a central location and monitor how well each plant is working. This prevents unnecessary time and travel to plants.”
Endress+Hauser has launched preconfigured panels that combine field instruments, edge devices, and software for remote monitoring and maintenance. These panels are also equipped with Netilion. They provide a flexible, plugand-play solution that can measure parameters chosen by the customer.
Further, the company’s spectrometer offers reliable, real-time measurements of multiple parameters like chemical and biological oxygen demand equivalent, turbidity, nitrate, and spectral absorption coefficient in a single device.
“This type of technology is typically only available as laboratory equipment but can now be used in the field. It can be quickly adapted to a specific application through pre-installed analysis models,” says Pretorius.
Regular maintenance work is essential to minimise unplanned and costly downtime on measuring equipment. “The Liquiline transmitter is a plug-and-play setup that speeds up work and minimises process downtime during sensor maintenance. It also provides additional information around the health of the sensor,” says Pretorius.
Most Endress+Hauser measuring devices have a unique diagnostic, verification and monitoring function
known as Heartbeat Technology. This increases measuring reliability by monitoring the health of the transmitters, providing diagnostics of the sensors, and then issuing notifications around device failures and maintenance requirements.
“For example, electrolytes in the digital free chlorine sensor need to be replenished and the sensor must be calibrated after a certain period of time. Fair warning is given to technicians, thereby ensuring that there is never a ‘dead space’ – where no readings are provided due to a broken measuring device,” explains Pretorius.
All of Endress+Hauser’s flow meters have built-in verification tools that operate according to known metrology standards. This is a mandatory requirement for when WTWs and WWTWs are applying for Blue Drop and Green Drop status. The verification can be done remotely, which is a necessity for water utilities whose services stretch over large areas.
“We are focused on optimising maintenance efforts, to ensure that our products always give reliable information that help streamline processes,” states Pretorius.
Endress+Hauser also has a considerable Service Department that works according to service contracts or call-outs.
“The water and wastewater sector is cost-sensitive, and instrumentation sometimes ends up at the bottom of the list; however, monitoring a process will yield better results and optimise a plant, saving money in the long term. Endress+Hauser has a huge toolbox of solutions for the water and wastewater sector and we are always ready to assist,” concludes Pretorius.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 7 COVER STORY
Panel solutions for water quality monitoring
TURNING THE TIDE
There must be a shift in our actions if we want to herald a new era of sustainable water practices and improved sanitation. The cholera outbreak in Hammanskraal (which lead to just under 50 deaths), the 2022 flooding in eThekwini (which left many citizens displaced, cost lives, and damaged bulk water and sanitation infrastructure), and the ‘Day Zero’ reality in Nelson Mandela Bay provide ample reasons for calls to turn the tide on the water crisis. The subthemes are:
management, as well as the Blue and Green Drop certification.
3 Reading the Charts: Effecting resilient planning and management in a changing environment
5 Tending the Lookout: Optimising monitoring and efficiency
Hands on the Wheel: Moving towards stronger partnerships and stakeholder engagement
This subtheme will focus on international initiatives, publicprivate partnerships (PPPs), SDG 6 communication, and stakeholders, including developing capacity within the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector such as technical and soft skills.
Aye Aye Capt'n: Turn the tide with improved governance
This subtheme targets water governance, policies and regulations, water economics and business development, with particular attention on the circular economy, funding, infrastructure asset
With a changing environment and the devastating impacts of climate change, we must effectively plan toward integrated waste resource management, project management, disaster management, as well as surface water resource protection and accessibility – including hydrology. This subtheme will invite papers on groundwater management, availability, accessibility, and resilience planning – including stormwater management – with special attention to SDG 2, agriculture, and plant-soil-water enhancements.
4 Forging A'Head: Improving municipal water and sanitation service delivery
This will entail all things related to service delivery, such as the provision of potable water and access to clean water, municipal performance, Blue and Green Drop certification, and sanitation service delivery – including alternative sanitation such as non-sewered systems, infrastructure design, construction, operation, maintenance, and efficiency.
Monitoring and evaluation are key to efficient service delivery. This subtheme focuses on efficiency in water use by tackling non-revenue water, working with water balances, water quantity monitoring, WC/WDM and wastewater reuse, water quality impacts (surface and groundwater), monitoring, assessment and modelling, and No Drop certification. New methods and instrumentation for monitoring in chemical, microbiological, and other laboratory analyses will be included.
6 Clipping New Edges: Innovation and technology
Innovation leads to change and progressive movement. This subtheme will target treatment technologies in water, wastewater, and wastewater reuse – including sewage treatment, wastewater and faecal sludge, mine water and acid mine drainage, naturebased solutions such as natural and constructed wetlands, 4IR, digital twins, bioremediation, alternative technology (not related to sanitation), applied science, and AI.
We look forward to welcoming you all at our conference at the Durban ICC from 27 to 29 May 2024.
In keeping with the nautical theme of WISA’s last two conferences – ‘All Hands on Deck’ and ‘Navigating the Course’ in 2020 and 2022, respectively – WISA has chosen
‘Turning the Tide’ for its upcoming conference in 2024.
By Dr Lester Goldman, CEO, WISA
WISA • CEO’S COMMENT
While we have the available technology to tackle the sanitation crisis, there has been slow or non-existent adoption and scaling of these solutions. The sanitation sector has always been the ‘poor cousin’ in our industry and it needs better advocacy.
The impact of better sanitation in South Africa goes far beyond providing access to toilets. It is a catalyst for better water quality and water security, improved health, education, gender equality, economic development, environmental conservation, and social harmony.
Currently, the majority of South Africans simply do not care about what happens once a toilet is flushed. Furthermore, it is simply impossible to give every South African a flushing toilet. There is not enough water and we do not have the associated funding for this infrastructure.
While there have been some successful sanitation pilot projects at schools and in small communities, nothing has been rolled out at scale. This is a global problem. Sanitation always seems to lag behind.
It’s disheartening to witness greenfield projects continue to install the antiquated flushing technology that is a burden on our water resources and infrastructure. This is because people still see a flushing toilet as the gold standard of sanitation and are either unaware of newer available technologies, do not understand their benefits, or completely disregard them as viable options.
Advocacy is defined as the process of strategically managing and sharing
Beyond the flush: igniting change
By Dan Naidoo, chairman, WISA
knowledge to change and/or influence policies and practices that affect people’s lives.
There was a huge amount of advocacy around basic water access and rights. This has been acknowledged in policy frameworks, committed masterplans, funding, and our Constitution. We now need the same level of advocacy around sanitation. We are forgetting that sanitation is also a basic human right.
While there is a National Sanitation Policy that was approved by Cabinet in 2016 that mentions all the options of alternative sanitation technologies, there are no developed norms and standards to guide development, investment, and implementation – unlike water. There is no clear sanitation masterplan at a national or provincial level. The water sector has lists of water projects at national, provincial, and local levels that are aimed at improving access to water, but this approach is lacking for sanitation. Equal weight needs to be given to water and sanitation. The Green Drop Report is a stark reminder that more budget and focus are given to water quality, while most of our wastewater treatment plants are failing dismally.
We are a water-biased country. Sanitation rarely makes any headlines. And ironically, sanitation has a direct impact on water quality. We need to place more emphasis on sanitation and advocate for sanitation
equality across all aspects of service delivery. We need to get every citizen and government department on board. A lot can be learnt from the planning that is used around water. The plan includes surface water, groundwater, desalination, water recycling, and water reuse. Like water, there will never be a one size that fits all with sanitation. A great deal of focus needs to be placed on behaviour training and advocating for better adoption of newer and alternative sanitation technologies.
Advocating for national and provincial sanitation plans with the required funding options that consider a variety of solutions will go a long way towards improving the current status quo and gaining traction in attaining Sustainable Development Goal 6.2.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 9 WISA • CHAIR'S COMMENT
yesterday, today and tomorrow
The WISA YWP-NW together with the Northern Branch of the Groundwater Division (GWD) and the North-West University Geoscience Society (NUGS) held a hybrid event focusing on the different facets of the water sector, looking at the past, present, and future directions.
WISA • YWP
Water has been with us and we have been with water forever.
“The very first 10 verses of the Bible mention water and creation. In the Quran, there is a reference to how all life is made from water. The Quran states that Allah ‘made from water every living thing’. Another verse describes how ‘Allah has created every animal from water’. In Buddhism, water is seen as a life giver that symbolises purity, clarity, and calmness. It is also believed that water was formed in the early universe during the Big Bang, as the fusion of hydrogen and oxygen atoms occurred,” states Professor Carlos Bezuidenhout, director: Environmental Sciences and Management Unit, NorthWest University.
In 500 BC, there was already a sewer system in Rome to separate solids from water. A map of ancient Pompeii illustrates the presence of public and private toilets.
“However, in medieval times, water was undervalued and mistreated because there appeared to be an abundance of it. This led to outbreaks of cholera and typhoid. These outbreaks were always followed by a spike in technologies that brought fresher water to the cities or transported human waste out of them. Groundwater technologies were developed to extract fresh water from aquifers and sewer lines were built in these European cities, many of which are still operational today. An abundance of technologies was developed for treating water to potable standards,” adds Bezuidenhout.
Today, there is a huge focus on research and technologies that assist in achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: clean water and sanitation for all. This is because SDG 6 plays a role in achieving all other SDGs. There is also an increased appreciation of the importance of sanitation, as well as its link to clean water and the health of communities. There is a link between poor sanitation and increased mortality rates. Currently, flush toilets are a huge part of sanitation in South Africa. But there is a growing on-site sanitation market where the sludge can be used as a resource (biogas, bricks, fertiliser).
Water now faces challenges such as pollution and climate change.
“Water pollution in agriculture has dire consequences for human health. In many parts of Africa, polluted and untreated water is the only water available and is often used for recreation, religious, and household purposes, negatively affecting the health and livelihoods of people,” states Bezuidenhout.
Organic and microbial pollution of rivers, dams, aquifers, and oceans are typically caused by the increase in wastewater loading due to population growth. This wastewater contains dangerous pathogens, chemicals, and antimicrobials that are difficult to treat. Bezuidenhout explains that there are some ongoing studies that are investigating the removal of antibiotics from wastewater for the purposes of reuse.
Another pollution concern is the release of pretreated wastewater (by wastewater treatment plants in coastal areas) into the ocean, resulting in microplastics pollution and the release of antibiotic-resistance mechanisms. Various harmful microorganisms can live on these microplastics. Both microplastics and microorganisms can have harmful effects on marine life and ecosystems. They can be ingested by marine organisms, leading to physical harm, and can also enter the food chain, posing potential risks to human health if consumed
“For there to be a future, we need to handle these challenges, embrace new technologies, address policies, and get political buy-in. If this does not happen, we could face a disaster. There could be a massive increase in antimicrobial resistance (mostly affecting the African continent), posing huge challenges (and expense) to healthcare,” Bezuidenhout concludes.
FIRST 10 VERSES IN THE BIBLE: GENESIS 1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, "Let there be light", and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light "day", and the darkness he called "night". And there was evening, and there was morning--the first day. And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." So, God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse "sky". And there was evening, and there was morning – the second day. And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear". And it was so. God called the dry ground "land", and the gathered waters he called "seas". And God saw that it was good.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 11 WISA • YWP
Professor Carlos Bezuidenhout, director: Environmental Sciences and Management Unit, North-West University
MESSAGE TO WOMEN:
BUILD AND MANAGE YOUR OWN ENVIRONMENT
The water industry has undergone a significant transformation, with an increase in the proportion of women holding senior and executive positions in local and global organisations. By Bomkazi
Vaza, lead: YWP Eastern Cape
he recent accomplishments of highly motivated women, the amazing results of their work, and the celebration of their successes have been a delight. As their professions progressed, many of these women are assisting younger women through initiatives involving water, offering guidance and a sense of belonging. We express our appreciation for the courage displayed by the women who have taken pride in working in fields where males dominate and have broken down doors to advance. Women have shown that they can produce highquality work and can act as capable managers. The Women's March of 1956 formed the groundwork for the presence of today's strong, resilient women in the industries. I would like to take this opportunity to promote greater gender equality and empowerment, as well as to reflect on several issues that affect women in the water sector, including access to water, decision-making and rights, as
well as equipment and engineering gears that are designed for male users. The huge gender gap in the water sector is a result of the historically low representation of women in STEM fields.
The following factors should be considered, and the shift towards a more balanced sector where everyone can thrive will quicken:
• Increase the number of female applicants qualified to be put in decision-making positions by introducing more women to education and training.
• Have woman representatives in the water sector be role models and assist other women on their career paths.
• Women should have the selfassurance to speak up in public forums of decision-making and also account for their partial involvement in the water sector.
• The need for more women to fill the various water profession openings should be extensively covered by the media and those working in the water industry. The workplace should be restructured to account for the duties of women.
The increased involvement of women in the water sector should not be seen as a transfer of power from men to women, but rather as a recognition of the significant contribution that women can make to decision-making for all. If you are a woman working in the water industry or if you are a woman in general and you cannot find what you deserve in the present environment, you should build and manage your own environment.
12 SEP TEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 WISA • YWP
MAXIMISING PULSATOR CLARIFYING PERFORMANCE
The operation of a pulsator clarifier can be optimised with regard to suction lift and drop times. This can be done by considering the varying turbidity of raw water (low versus high settleable solids), as well as controlling the sludge blanket depth. By Kimon Padayachee, WISA member*
30–60 seconds. This is split by suction lift time range of 20–50 seconds and a drop time range of 6–10 seconds. These would normally be set to achieve a solids up-flow rate during the pulse in the tank of about 7–8 m/h for waters containing low settleable solids (< 0.25% m/v) and 10–12 m/h for waters containing high settleable solids (> 0.25% m/v).
High settleable solids
Apulsator clarifier plays a crucial role in the operation of water treatment plants, aiding in the removal of suspended solids and facilitating the clarification process. It is a simple type of up-flow tank, whose effectiveness depends on the formation of the sludge blanket. With its hopper-bottomed tank, the pulsator clarifier allows flocculated water to flow upward through the sludge blanket in alternating cycling or pulsating flow stages of suction lift and drop times. This is done via a vacuum pump that induces fluid motion
and enhances the settling of suspended solids.
Pulsating flow cycle
The pulsating flow cycle consists of two phases:
1) Suction lift phase (usually 60 cm to 100 cm)
2) Bed expands uniformly. The sludge blanket acts as a filter, aiding in the removal of fine particles and preventing them from being re-entrained into the clarified overflow stream. During the subsiding flow phase, the vacuum air valve opens, releasing air into the drop pipe, which creates pressure and forces the sludge blanket to drop downward. The bed settles uniformly, ensuring the separation of solids from the treated water.
As a result of the pulsator cycling flow, the sludge blanket remains homogeneous throughout its depth with no stratification, facilitating continuous, effective contact between coagulated water and sludge.
The duration of the total pulsation cycle is varied according to the feed flowrate and water quality; it would typically be of the order of
Higher settleable solids sources require longer suction lift times (40–60 seconds) to allow pulsators to effectively draw in the solids-laden water. This case is indicative of a higher concentration of suspended solids and longer suction lift times. These are necessary because the suspended blanket seizes the particles and clarified water travels upwards to the top of the unit as the raw water passes through. High velocity of flow through the sludge blanket creates greater resistance, a high degree of particle collisions between primary flocs present in coagulated water, and secondary flocs present in the sludge blanket. This results in a
WISA • INNOVATION
Series of adjacent pulsators
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 13
Sludge blanket observed very close to the pulsator surface
Pulsator layout with vacuum chambers in background
higher flocculation energy that leads to a consistent and stable sludge blanket formation.
Flocculation energy refers to the energy required to promote the aggregation and growth of particles into larger flocs during the flocculation process. The flocculation energy process occurs under the hydraulic pulsation mechanism where there is a periodic variation of water levels within the clarifier using hydraulic pulses or surges as described above. These pulsations create a back-and-forth flow pattern within the clarifier, aiding in the flocculation process by enhancing particle collisions and floc growth. By extending the suction lift time, pulsator clarifiers have more opportunity to thoroughly extract the suspended solids from the raw water. The increase in volume concentration of the sludge blanket improves the efficiency of the flocculation process. It is also advisable that when there are high levels of settleable
solids present in the raw water, the plant should avoid using a streaming current detector (SCD) analyser for coagulant dose control. An SCD analyser is commonly used in water treatment plants to measure the electrical charge or zeta potential of particles in the raw water. It assists in monitoring and controlling the coagulant dose by providing real-time response on the effectiveness of the coagulation process.
However, under conditions of high settleable solids, utilising an SCD for coagulant dose control is not suitable for the following reasons:
• There are a significant number of particles present in the raw water, which interferes with accurate measurement by an SCD analyser due to sensor fouling. The suspended particles can affect the electrical conductivity and charge distribution within the analyser, leading to inaccurate readings and unreliable coagulant dose control. During the April 2022 flooding event, at a raw water turbidity of 3 000 NTU, the SCD analyser provided a coagulant dose of 128 ppm whereas a jar test provided an optimum dose of 60 ppm. This contribution of increased coagulant overdosing immediately led to the formation of small compact flocs that remained suspended in the pulsator clarifier and resulted in complete cloudiness at the surface. In addition, this also caused filter blinding,
WISA • INNOVATION
Common pulsator effluent channel
Clarified effluent channel for one pulsator
its hopperbottomed tank, the pulsator clarifier allows flocculated water to flow upward through the sludge blanket in alternating cycling or pulsating flow stages of suction lift and drop times. This is done via a vacuum pump that induces fluid motion and enhances the settling of suspended solids
resulting in minimal effectiveness in removing solids and increased final water turbidity. In order for the treatment process to continue successfully, the ‘overdosed’ water at each process train was discarded to the sludge plant.
• Inadequate charge detection: The SCD relies on the measurement of the electrical charge carried by the particles in the raw water. However, under conditions of high turbidity, the particles may have irregular shapes, sizes, and compositions, making it difficult for the SCD to accurately detect and measure their charges. This can result in inconsistent or incorrect readings, leading to ineffective coagulant dose control. Under the above conditions, coagulant-proportional dose control is recommended where the jar test optimum coagulant dose can be used as the set-point value. It is recommended to conduct cascade tests and jar tests every hour and two hours, respectively, under raw water conditions of high settleable solids –until the raw water turbidity stabilises.
Low settleable solids
Conversely, low settleable solids sources allow for shorter suction lift (20–35 seconds) and drop times of (6–8 seconds), as there are fewer solids to be lifted through the vacuum chamber. These times can be varied after measuring the pulsator clarifier overflow turbidity; a general guideline of an acceptable overflow turbidity required is < 5 NTU. This will suggest that the optimum flocculation conditions are achieved within the pulsator clarifier.
To optimise the flocculation process within the sludge blanket of the pulsator clarifier, it is advisable to maintain a minimum depth of 0.4 m from the top surface. This guideline serves as a reference for determining the frequency of pulsator clarifier desludging. However, it is crucial to exercise caution when adjusting the desludging timing to avoid complete loss of the sludge blanket. In addition, it is important to ensure that the pulsator clarifier is operated at its point of fluidisation, meaning that there must
be a balance between the up-flow velocity of the coagulated water and the settling velocity of the fluidised bed. The point of fluidisation occurs at the design capacity of the pulsator clarifier. Should the treatment plant be operated below the design capacity, poor clarified water (> 5 NTU) and increased solids loading occur at the filtration plant, which results in poor final water quality (> 0.5 NTU).
In comparison to laminar-flow-type clarifiers – also referred to as tube settlers or lamella clarifiers – these units operate on the principle of laminar flow and inclined plate settling. These clarifiers utilise a series of inclined plates or tubes, called lamellas, to create a large effective settling area within a compact footprint. The influent enters the clarifier and flows through the inclined plates, causing the flow to become more laminar. The laminar flow allows for gentle and controlled movement of the liquid across the inclined plates. As the liquid flows over the plates, the suspended solids settle due to gravity and slide down the inclined surface.
The settled solids collect at the bottom of the clarifier, forming a sludge
layer. This sludge is periodically removed through sludge collection mechanisms. The clarified liquid rises to the top and exits the clarifier. The inclined plates in a laminar-flow-type clarifier provide a larger effective settling area compared to conventional settling tanks. This allows for enhanced particle settling and improved separation efficiency within a smaller footprint. The principal operation of pulsator clarifiers relies on hydraulic pulsation to induce settling and separation of solids, while laminar-flow-type clarifiers utilise inclined plates to create laminar flow and enhance settling efficiency. Both types of clarifiers have their advantages and are suitable for different applications depending on the specific requirements of the water treatment process.
*Kimon Padyachee is a process engineer at Umgeni Water. This article is based on practical experiential knowledge gained from operating pulsators during the high turbid events of greater than 3 000 NTU (KwaZulu-Natal – April 2022) from a raw water dam source. For references, please contact Kimon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 15 WISA • INNOVATION
Pulsator layout with vacuum chambers in background
Leon Du Casse, managing director of Bio Sewage Systems, used to own a plastic recycling company. His interest in water was piqued when dealing with wastewater created from washing plastic items to remove pollutants. Today, Du Casse is at the helm of Bio Sewage Systems, and is passionate about recycling water.
What inspired the creation of Bio Sewage Systems?
Bio Sewage Systems offers innovative sewage treatment solutions. Our initial focus was the construction of modular wastewater treatment package plants for remote sites, using readily accessible materials and products that did not have to be imported or sourced from special suppliers. These modular plants produce water suitable for irrigation standards and are typically free-standing, above-ground, roto-moulded tanks on a concrete base. System capacities range from 2 000 ℓ/day to 80 000 ℓ/day.
From there, we started to build container plants, which could be loaded on a skip for transport or shipping. The container plants produce a higher quality of water. They
CHEMICAL-FREE UNDERGROUND TOILETS FOR MINES
are vandal-proof and have a substantially smaller footprint.
How did the Bio Loo come about? After interacting with some of our mining clients, we began to realise that chemical toilets in underground mines were posing a challenge. The maintenance of chemical toilets is essential to prevent malfunctions, leaks, and odours. However, accessing and servicing these toilets in the underground environment can be difficult, requiring specialised equipment and personnel. The disposal of waste from chemical toilets can also be problematic. It first needs to be transported to the surface (posing a further dilemma) and then needs to be either treated on-site or transported and treated at another facility. The buckets that carry this waste also need to be washed so they can be used again.
There is also a security issue, where valuable commodities (like diamonds and gold, depending on the mine) can be smuggled out of the mine in these buckets. Furthermore, managing and replenishing chemicals for the toilets in a remote underground location can be logistically challenging. Workers need to be trained in handling these chemicals safely.
We saw a gap in the market and developed the Bio Loo. This is a costeffective system with flushing toilets and a wastewater treatment plant that collects and then purifies black- and greywater underground.
Why has the Bio Loo been a success?
Absolutely no chemicals are used. Natural processes treat the waste, resulting in water that meets stringent discharge limits suitable for aquatic life. The treated water can be used for non-potable applications such as dust suppression, irrigation, drilling, and toilet flushing. This reduces the need for fresh water and minimises the impact on
16 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023
Leon Du Casse, managing director, Bio Sewage Systems
Flush ‘n Spray range
Natural processes treat the waste, resulting in water that meets stringent discharge limits suitable for aquatic life
There is no waste generation; everything is treated in a closed-loop system. The Bio Loo is both environmentally friendly and hygienic. Being modular, it is easy to install and compatible with existing infrastructure, making it easy to retrofit. We can also offer urinals, hand basins and even showers as part of the Bio Loo configuration, depending on our client’s needs. In addition to mining operations, the Bio Loo can be used in rural schools, building sites, informal settlements, and as temporary installations. The only prerequisite is that we need water to flush.
What about maintenance?
The Bio Loo can last indefinitely provided maintenance is carried out. It is extremely robust and all the sanitaryware is manufactured from stainless steel. However, one must remember that the Bio Loo cannot treat inorganic materials like cigarettes and sanitary pads, so we educate everyone who uses the Bio Loo and train an operator. That operator is taught how to look after the system and make any basic repairs if needed. We do not sell a product and then walk away. We want our products to live up to expectations and often enter into servicelevel agreements with our customers.
Are there any barriers regarding the uptake of this technology?
We are already selling the Bio Loo system and there is a growing interest. Although the SANS 30500
exists, none of this non-sewered sanitation (NSS) technology can be certified yet. This creates a situation where potential customers have difficulty in comparing products. I would advise clients to buy an NSS system from a company with a track record, references, and water test reports conducted in accredited laboratories.
What other products and services does Bio Sewage Systems offer?
Our name can be misleading, as we offer various water treatment solutions. Most recently, we have been treating borehole water to potable standards without reverse osmosis through our own potable water plants. We also treat water that is used on mines for reuse (showers, washing of clothes). Our systems include:
• Bio Sewage Systems –sewage water treatment (modular and containerised)
• Bio Pura – potable water (remove iron from water)
• Bio Loo – mobile integrated sewage treatment.
These systems either use very few chemicals or no chemicals at all. Is this deliberate?
Definitely. We have a phrase: “The way nature does it”. As most of our clients are in remote areas, the supply and transport
of chemicals will always be a problem. The fewer chemicals used, the more environmentally friendly the process. Furthermore, there are always safety concerns when handling the chemicals.
Any concluding remarks?
Currently, municipalities do not have the capacity to treat all of the wastewater they receive; this is where Bio Sewage Systems can add real value. Our wastewater treatment plants can treat wastewater onsite on a smaller scale, without the huge expense and time taken to build sewage pipelines, pump stations, and stationary treatment plants.
Bio Sewage Systems has grown exponentially over the past few years and will continue to innovate as new water technologies are developed. Personally, I am addicted to water.
The water and wastewater treatment sector is dynamic and interesting, and I am constantly searching for better solutions to treat and conserve this precious commodity.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 17
DISRUPTING THE SANITATION SPACE THROUGH COLLABORATION
product announcements and funding commitments were aimed at accelerating the adoption of innovative, non-sewered sanitation technologies in developing regions around the world.
“Initially, SASTEP was only focused on finding and then evaluating sanitation technologies that can address sanitation challenges in South Africa. We wanted to increase the number of technologies in the sanitation toolbox. After the expo in China, SASTEP was completely redesigned to broaden its scope beyond mere sanitation technology testing to actively stimulating a new and emerging sanitation industry,” says Akin Akinsete, programme manager, SASTEP.
While technology plays a significant role in creating new sanitation markets, it must be part of a larger ecosystem. This is why SASTEP has expanded its scope to include policy, pricing, climate change, the circular economy, standards and certification, behavioural change and social aspects of sanitation, sludge management, as well as public and private partnerships. A heavy focus is placed on the operations and maintenance of the technologies.
Founded in 2014 by the Water Research Commission (WRC), SASTEP is an initiative funded by the Department of Science and Innovation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). The programme is also supported by the Department of Water and Sanitation.
SASTEP was set up three years after the BMGF initiated the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge to spur the creation of new toilet technologies that safely and effectively manage human waste. The initiative
SASTEP created a platform that connects various key stakeholders within the sanitation value chain. The programme works with entrepreneurs, manufacturers, technology developers, communities that benefit from sanitation, the buyers of sanitation products (typically municipalities), as well as the researchers and academics that know and understand the sanitation challenges, barriers, and solutions.
“Through collaboration, SASTEP aims to create a sanitation technology industrialisation ecosystem that can provide everyone in South Africa with access to dignified sanitation that minimises pollution, beneficiates wastes and promotes health, safety, and water security. If there is a viable technology from another country, SASTEP will find a South African company that has the requisite skill to develop that technology locally. Often, some of the aspects of the technology have to be re-engineered to suit local conditions, like intermittent power supply, the need for robustness, and the availability of local materials and technical skills,” adds Akinsete.
“Spare parts and skills must be readily available to assist with the upkeep of these sanitation systems. Often, local authorities will give preference to the ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrine despite the low user acceptance in communities. This is because VIP toilets have no moving parts and very little maintenance is required. However, when VIP toilets fail, people revert to open defecation and sometimes there are even more devasting consequences like children dying in a pit of sewage,” explains Akinsete.
There is a dearth of standards that cater to the safety and performance of water and sanitation products. Current accreditation processes focus mainly on assessing, testing and certifying the materials used in construction. This has led to the proliferation of substandard sanitation products and systems. The ISO 30500 standard for non-sewered sanitation systems (NSSS) is a game changer. It has been written into SANS 10400 and the national building regulations.
“Due to the high level of South African representation on the international panel that supported the creation of ISO 30500, we were one of the first countries in the world to identically adopt the standard as SANS 30500 in 2019. However, setting up a certification scheme has remained a challenge,” says Akinsete.
This is due to the stringent requirements of the standard as well as the costs associated with testing. Moreover, laboratories that would be responsible for testing need to be SANAS 17025
No single entity – whether the Department of Water and Sanitation or a research institution such as the Water Research Commission – can attain SDG 6.2 in isolation. It is with this collaborative approach in mind that the South African Sanitation Technology Enterprise Programme (SASTEP) was established.
18 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023
Akin Akinsete, programme manager, SASTEP
accredited. It is expensive to get accredited and maintain that accreditation. From a capacity point of view, laboratories that are SANAS accredited do not typically have capacity for testing NSSS and currently do not see the business case, as there is minimal demand at present. On the other hand, laboratories that have capacity to measure most of the parameters required for NSSS testing reside at universities and research institutions, and are not SANAS accredited. Accredited laboratories are reluctant to take on faecal samples because their core businesses often focus on testing related to the food and health industries; substantial investment would
be needed to set up dedicated labs for faecal and sanitation effluent testing. This is a stumbling block when developing a certification scheme.
“To overcome this problem, SASTEP aims to build a certification scheme inclusive of local testing, laboratory readiness, and a certification mark. This project seeks to develop a cost-efficient and functional certification/accreditation process for SANS 30500 that will enable innovators and manufacturers to develop quality products in accordance with the standard,” explains Akinsete.
Selection guide for sanitation
A ‘one size fits all’ sanitation solution does not exist. Therefore, the WRC has developed a suite of tools to improve the understanding of sanitation systems in general and support decision-makers who, in many cases, have limited capacity and time. The tools aim to empower municipalities, water services authorities, and water service providers to deploy sanitation solutions that are contextually appropriate – including alternative and traditional approaches. These include:
• selecting sanitation systems
• Sani Select decision-support tool
• writing a sanitation policy
• procurement processes for alternative sanitation systems
• advocating for alternative sanitation systems.
Additional work is being done on incorporating climate resilience and adaptation into a municipal sanitation toolbox. “During April last year, floods in KwaZulu-Natal damaged wastewater treatment plants and washed away many chemical toilets, leaving informal settlements without sanitation. NSSS can definitely play a larger role in such instances,” explains Akinsete.
SASTEPS’s work has begun to bear fruit, with promising partnerships developed with entities like the Department of Basic Education (DBE), where next-generation sanitation technologies have been included in the Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE) initiative.
Following eight successful pilot projects at various schools, the DBE has procured NSSS technologies for 10 schools in the Eastern Cape. Furthermore, memoranda of agreement have also been signed between SASTEP, eThekwini Municipality, Johannesburg Water and, more recently, the City of Cape Town, to pilot these nextgeneration sanitation technologies in informal settlements and demonstrate their capacity to build a climate-resilient and adaptive sanitation toolbox.
It is hoped that, through these partnerships, the promise of energyand resource-efficient, safely managed sanitation service delivery will soon become a reality for every South African and bring us closer to achieving SDG 6.
www.wrc.org.za SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 19 INDUSTRY INSIGHT
BRINGING A SUSTAINABLE WATER SUPPLY TO CUSTOMERS
Access to clean water for every South African is a constitutional right. But for this right to be fully realised, there must be effective and comprehensive infrastructure development, with a focus on its upkeep. Unfortunately, the larger part of South Africa’s water infrastructure, built more than four decades ago, must be replaced to reduce the high rate of wastage through pipeline leaks. Fortunately, Rand Water has continued to focus on infrastructure maintenance. It has also been investing in new infrastructure such as water purification plants, reservoirs, pump stations, pipelines, pump stations, as well as automation and electrical equipment. Rand Water could have faced the stark reality of not adequately providing water to its customers in line with its mandate if it had not invested in infrastructure.
In the last financial year, Rand Water spent billions of rand through its capital
expenditure plan. It entailed the upgrading, refurbishment, and replacement of assets across the entire Rand Water network. During this year alone, the water utility unveiled two noteworthy projects: the 210 M ℓ Vlakfontein Reservoir in Benoni and Phase 1 of Station 5A at the Zuikerbosch Water Treatment Plant.
Vlakfontein Reservoir is the biggest post-tensioned reservoir in Southern Africa and is set to provide additional water to some parts of Gauteng. This reservoir is part of the Mapleton System, which receives water from the Zuikerbosch purification and pumping station via two pipes, which are both 2 100 mm in diameter. It distributes potable water to various municipalities through two outgoing pipelines that are also 2 100 mm in diameter.
Station 5A is a 600 M ℓ water purification plant, located within the Rand Water Zuikerbosch Water Treatment Plant in Vereeniging. It is one of Rand Water’s multimillion-rand flagship projects aimed at augmenting water supply into its systems.
When projects of this magnitude are implemented, it is worth noting the benefits that will be derived upon
its completion. On top of the list of benefits is the initial addition of 150 M ℓ /day of water into the system, serving a further 2.4 million consumers. The final phase of Station 5A will add another 450 M ℓ /day, which will significantly contribute to the region’s water supply security and sustainability, ultimately creating a positive socio-economic condition for communities. This project is a major milestone in accomplishing Rand Water’s augmentation strategy and part of the future sustainable water supply envisaged by Rand Water.
However, the addition of large quantities of water to Rand Water’s system should not encourage water wastage. Consumers must continue using water sparingly because of South Africa’s broader water scarcity.
In its efforts to implement the mandate, Rand Water encounters numerous serious challenges that have the potential to compromise or
20 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023
Rand Water – the largest bulk water utility on the African continent – continues to invest in infrastructure and make repair and maintenance a priority.
STATION 5A PROJECT SCOPE
• A raw water abstraction pipeline that feeds Station 5A from the Zuikerbosch Forebay/Intake Dam
• An array of chemical dosing plants (lime, poly, silica, and organic for coagulation and flocculation)
• Horizontal flow sedimentation tanks with desludging bridges – for settling and removal of precipitates/dirty particles
• A carbonation bay – pH correction and/or stabilisation with CO2
• A filter plant that consists of rapid gravity sand filters – for removal of suspended matter
• A chlorine disinfection plant – for elimination of pathogenic organisms
• A reservoir and pump engine room – for pumping potable water to consumers
• Outgoing pipelines connecting to the distribution network
even derail either the development or refurbishment of water supply infrastructure. These include, but are not limited to, vandalism, encroachment on its servitudes, non-payment of water services by local municipalities, and actual corrosion of its pipelines after many years of performance.
• Vandalism: Although the water utility has enlisted the services of security companies to protect its infrastructure, in some areas, these
pipelines are still vulnerable, and this is where thieves can damage the pipelines, valves, and steal valves –and, in some instances, water itself.
• Encroachment of servitudes: Formal and informal encroachment are some of Rand Water’s challenges that may delay the replacement of worn-out infrastructure. Formal encroachment is a situation where a formal housing project has been developed, and informal encroachment refers to a situation where an informal settlement is built on top of Rand Water’s pipeline or servitude. These situations have the potential to impede Rand Water from having free access to the land for maintenance purposes.
• Non-payment: Both non-payment or late payment by municipal customers may negatively affect Rand Water’s financial stability.
• Corrosion: The gradual loss of material from a metal surface is one of the major causes of degrading pipeline performance. As the coating of pipes wears out, corrosion starts due to the moisture in compressed air. These steel pipelines then need to be replaced.
Despite these challenges, Rand Water is committed to providing clean and sustainable water to millions of South Africans. There is no better way to celebrate its 120-year anniversary than to witness the implementation of infrastructure projects like the Vlakfontein Reservoir and Station 5A.
• Established in terms of Chapter 6 of the Water Services Act (No. 108 of 1997) and listed as a National Government Business Enterprise – sole shareholder
• Largest water utility in Africa
• Has a global reputation for providing water of high quality and has consistently exceeded national standards and international guidelines on water quality
• Abstracts raw water from the Vaal Dam and conveys it through pipelines to the two purification systems: the Zuikerbosch and Vereeniging water treatment plants
• Distributes purified water to the secondary Palmiet, Zwartkopjes, Mapleton, and Eikenhof booster pumping stations
• Provides 4 400 Mℓ/day of bulk potable water to over 16 million people
• Supplies Gauteng, parts of Mpumalanga, the Free State, and North West
• Besides municipalities, its customer base includes mines and farmers
• Supplies an area covering 37 000 km2
• Pipeline infrastructure spans 3 500 km
• 59 reservoirs
• Been in operation for 120 years (since 1903)
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 21
Elevating African lives through a sanitation revolution
Government engineers and planners in South Africa are engaged in the delivery of improved sanitation to the 11% of South African households without sanitation services. An additional 26% of households have sanitation services that do not meet national standards for dignified sanitation. In addressing these issues, many engineers are stuck in a binary way of thinking, which is why a paradigm shift is needed,” explains Brian Lewis, CEO, Envirosan Sanitation Solutions.
“Towns and cities are generally characterised by flush toilets and piped infrastructure, while people living in townships often use pit toilets. Full flush is extremely expensive – not only in terms of actual water consumption but also in terms of infrastructure maintenance. VIP (ventilated improved pit) toilets are more robust
and require less maintenance but have also been known to exhibit several issues when it comes to unpleasant odours and child safety. Additionally, VIPs and UDDTs (urine diversion dry toilets) tend to fill up quickly and can be difficult to clean,” Lewis adds. Envirosan firmly believes that the people of South Africa deserve better. With close to two decades of experience in the sanitation space, Envirosan manufactures various sanitation technologies – from VIPs to UDDTs and low-flush toilets.
One of Envirosan’s most well-known innovations is the EaziFlush™. It combines the advantages of both dry and flushing systems without any of their disadvantages. It is a system that has been able provide a sustainable and dignified sanitation solution to both communities and schools.
The EaziFlush can be used either as a pour-flush or a revolutionary low-flush toilet (using less than 2 ℓ of water per flush), and was developed in conjunction with the Water Research Commission (WRC), Department of Science and Technology, and
22 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023
A pioneer in the sanitation space, Envirosan Sanitation Solutions continues to provide the African continent with dignified sanitation solutions that don’t strain water supplies or municipal budgets.
Partners in Development (PID) to deliver a hygienic, low-flush sanitation option to all communities – from people living in urban, peri-urban or rural communities to those living in informal settlements. The EaziFlush incorporates a child-friendly seat to enhance child safety, as well as a water seal within the unit, which eliminates the odours and fly breeding commonly associated with VIPs and UDDTs.
The EaziSplit™ is a hybrid, low-flush, urine diversion sanitation technology based upon the EOOS design and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) Reinvent the Toilet initiative.
“We are extremely proud that we are one of the first partners to have a fully commercialised and approved BMGF design. Celinkungu Junior Secondary School (JSS) in the Eastern Cape was identified as urgently requiring sanitation and handwashing facilities. It was thus put forward to receive the EaziSplit sanitation solution. We were able to install several EaziSplit units into Agrément-approved super structures, each fitted with an externally mounted 60 ℓ flush on-demand tank,” states Lewis.
Both solutions have been designed to be compatible with a range of ‘back-end’ solutions, including a leach pit, septic tank, conservancy tank, biodigester, solids-free sewer system, or similar on-site/off-grid treatment facility. The EaziSplit allows urine to be collected for alternative use.
As a pilot project, the aim is to validate (by utilising the platform provided by SASTEP) that EaziSplit serves a vital rung in the sanitation ladder – bridging the gap between full-flush toilets (often using 9 ℓ of water or more per flush) and the commonly rolled-out dry sanitation technologies (VIPs and UDDTs). The latter are not favoured by most rural and peri-urban communities as a result of several issues, such as smells, lack of dignity, poor hygiene, and questionable safety. Celinkungu JSS will ultimately serve as a new benchmark and higher standard of sanitation for school and community sanitation programmes.
“We have a dedicated school construction division with a Grade 6 CIDB
The EaziSoak™ reduces the risk of waterborne diseases and the risk of flooding by diverting surface water away from stormwater and sewer drains
rating. Several large private sector organisations have recognised the benefits (both in terms of cost-effectiveness, delivery efficiency, and improved BBBEE rating) of channelling a portion of their annual education services district and special education department budgets through Envirosan to provide safe and dignified sanitation facilities at over 200 schools throughout the country,” Lewis notes.
The most recent addition to its product line is EaziSoak™ – a modular plug-and-play soakaway system that replaces conventional fabric, stone, and perforated pipe soakaways.
“A soakaway (often referred to as a French drain, leach/drain field, subsoil drain, or trench drain) is typically a trench that is filled with gravel or rock (or both), a perforated pipe, and is covered in a geotextile material that redirects surface water and groundwater away from the area,” explains Lewis.
French drains are primarily used to prevent surface water and groundwater from penetrating or damaging building foundations or placed behind retaining walls to relieve groundwater pressure. They are also used as an alternative to open ditches or storm sewers for streets and highways, as well as for the distribution of water from a typical septic tank sewage treatment system.
Advantages of the EaziSoak, when compared to a traditional soakaway, include:
• improved percolation area, allowing for a smaller footprint
• completely stackable and easy to transport, without the use of construction equipment
• fast and easy installation due to its modular design
• greater storage capacity
• chambers are completely underneath, allowing for unobstructed infiltration rate of liquids
• perforations included in the chamber design allow for maximum liquid infiltration
The EaziFlush™ is a system that has been able provide a sustainable and dignified sanitation solution to both communities and schools
• substitutes the use of stone, perforated pipe, and geofabric, which are not always readily available
The EaziSoak reduces the risk of waterborne diseases and the risk of flooding by diverting surface water away from stormwater and sewer drains. It also helps the natural process of recharging underlying aquifers, requires little maintenance, and can be retrofitted quite easily.
By supplying a comprehensive range of cost-effective dry and low-flush sanitation systems, Envirosan is well positioned to restore safety, dignity, and sustainability to the alarmingly high percentage of rural and peri-urban populations on the African continent without access to quality sanitation.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 23 PROFILE
nutrient removal (BNR) for wastewater treatment, created a novel water law process, and the world’s largest drinking water treatment facility at Rand Water. We are also a leader in the adoption of non-sewered sanitation (NSS) technologies.
By Jay Bhagwan, executive manager: Water Use and Waste Management, Water Research Commission (WRC)
IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT FLUSHING
stations; negating the high energy costs associated with pumping of sewage and wastewater treatment. The biggest breakthrough is that it has the potential to eliminate pollution and reduce the need on freshwater requirements from 30% to 40%, as well as stimulate a circular economy opportunity. No more failing wastewater plants and sewage spills.
“It’s not all about flushing.” This was the clarion call of President Cyril Ramaphosa at the National Sanitation Summit in 2015, hosted by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS). This conference offered the impetus and stimulus and reinforced the future sanitation environment.
I was pleasantly surprised when the Gauteng Partnership Fund put out a bid window for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of alternative sanitation (sewer) solutions for informal settlements and other Gauteng Department of Human Settlements projects for a period of five years. The objective of the project is to gradually move away from the provision of interim services to more permanent and sustainable basic services. An
while detailed town planning and engineering design processes unfold. The installation of these alternative solutions is intended to provide a better level of basic services in a cost-effective and sustainable manner that supports the green agenda, since informal settlements are not connected to the grids of municipal engineering services. Interest from Department of Education, the City of Cape Town, Umgeni Water, Johannesburg Water, as well as the private sector is a strong signal for NSS and its potential. Yes, this is happening, and real strides are being made in South Africa to improve urban and rural sanitation – and the interest growing. We can be considered pioneers and leading globally in the application of the NSS pathway.
According to Dr Jennifer Molwantwa, CEO, WRC: “Where you are born should not determine the technology you get.” For too long, people in the developing world have been subjected to a binary technology paradigm of either a latrine technology or reticulated waterborne system that
is determined by where you live. The lack of aspirational sanitation solutions and, more so, non-sewered or off-grid solutions, has been the Achilles heel towards progress since the poor have no sanitation market. The new challenges of rapid urbanisation coupled with the wicked consequences of climate variability are prompting a new look at sanitation.
The WRC has responded to this through its Sanitation Transformation Initiative – SANITI – an acronym that plays on the word ‘sanity’ and aims to bring greater sustainability in how we deliver services or the ‘insanity’ of doing the same things repeatedly and expecting a different outcome. Together with national and international partners, we have been catalysing research, development, and innovation into the off-grid/non-sewered toilets for the future with the aim of transforming into a more secure sanitation sector.
The WRC’s South African Sanitation
through producing the necessary guidelines, standards, and policy recommendations to support market entry of innovation to sector. SASTEP has also provided research support to demonstrate equivalent toilet experiences to full flush systems, as well as cost-effectiveness and environmental benefits. By doing so, we plan to have a range of sanitation solutions available to meet our changing circumstances. Equity and dignity can only be realised by stimulating sanitation research, innovation, and science towards a
“The sad reality is one of the reasons why the world is making poor progress towards meeting the SDGs in the provision of safe sanitation is the lack of innovative sanitation technology and solutions. This has been the Achilles heel, and the quest for cheap solutions rather than cost-effective solutions has resulted in the poor or many in the developing world receiving inequitable sanitation solutions. We must build the sanitation Teslas of the future,” notes Molwantwa.
“South Africa has been too slow in harnessing these new opportunities and this has clearly manifested in where inequity in sanitation
provision has in a way contributed to further marginalisation in the development of a large part of our society. It is therefore a privilege for us in South Africa to host the 1st International Water Association (IWA) Non-Sewered Sanitation Conference and knowledge platform. Not only will it unlock the potential of knowledge and solutions to deal with our challenges, but it will also allow us to share this knowledge with the rest of the global world. It is the time for this much needed disruption and communities are starting to demand better services. The timing is very opportunistic for us and the developing world in transitioning and leading this new paradigm towards meeting the SDGs,” she adds.
On the back of climate challenges and associated water security, the NSS pathway offers the sustainable pathway for the future. The IWA itself has recognised this potential through its Inclusive Urban Sanitation initiative – the aim of which is to reshape the global agenda on urban sanitation. Through a dedicated campaign called SaniAction, the objective is to gather the support and collaborative action needed to secure progress. This is a move towards a collaborative approach to expanding safe service coverage, since too many people in towns and cities around the world still lack access to safely managed sanitation. Achieving safe, inclusive sanitation service outcomes requires dynamic governance and public service systems that incentivise the delivery of public good outcomes. This initiative is based on the premise of ensuring that sanitation is inclusive and encompasses resilience to climate change and the adoption of circular economy principles – covering sanitation as an integral element of urban water sustainability.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 25
FROM HUMAN WASTE TO PROSPERITY: THE SANITATION ECONOMY
The Sanitation and Hygiene Fund (SHF) – through its From Human Waste to Prosperity: The Sanitation Economy Report – estimates that the current value of the sanitation economy and menstrual hygiene marketplace in Benin, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Uganda could exceed billions of US dollars.
“An ecosystem of sanitation and hygiene infrastructure, services and jobs, the sanitation economy marks a business response to the global sanitation and hygiene crisis. Investment in the sanitation economy – together with the menstrual hygiene marketplace – offers an important pathway to accelerate progress on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.2 (sanitation and hygiene for all) and other related SDGs on health, education, gender equity, economic growth, and climate resilience,” says Dominic O’Neill, executive director, SHF.
She adds that tapping into sanitation and hygiene can generate access to basic human rights and services for those in need, as well as significant economic growth and opportunities for communities, especially women and girls.
The toilet economy
The toilet economy is the marketplace of products and services that provide safe toilet and handwashing access for all, whether public or private.
In countries across Africa – including Benin, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Uganda – there is evidence of a huge
potential market for latrine construction, as well as the manufacturing and sale of cleaning products and hygiene articles.
With approximately two thirds of the population in these countries – more than 200 million people – still without access to at least basic sanitation and hygiene, the toilet economy is predicted to grow rapidly.
Estimates of the current size of the toilet economy range from US$109.3 million (R2.1 billion) in Sierra Leone to $4.7 billion (R90.6 billion) in Nigeria, with a potential to grow to $320 million (R6.17 billion) and $9.9 billion (R190.9 billion), respectively, once universal access has been achieved.
An ecosystem of sanitation and hygiene infrastructure, services and jobs
CIRCULAR ECONOMY: Resource recovery and upcycled products from faecal sludge
Accessible & affordable
Nature-friendly, climate resilient & sustainable
Evidence & learning
SMART ECONOMY: Digitised systems
The circular sanitation economy
The circular sanitation economy includes the systems that connect the biocycle, using multiple forms of biological waste, recovering nutrients and water, and creating value-adding products such as renewable energy, organic fertilisers, and proteins.
This market is still nascent in many countries but an increasing number of companies are tapping into this potential. The evidence for a growing need – and demand – for toilet-emptying
Approaching human waste as a market economy opens the possibility for economic gain, job creation, women’s empowerment, environmental protection, recycling, and reuse. The sanitation economy and menstrual hygiene marketplace intersect around the toilet economy
MENSTRUAL HYGIENE MARKETPLACE
TOILET ECONOMY: Safe toilets and maintenance
Handwashing with soap
The production, distribution and disposal of menstrual hygiene products and services
Accessible & affordable
Nature-friendly, climate resilient & sustainable
Evidence & learning
Consumer use and health information insights
MENSTRUAL PRODUCTS: Menstrual products and waste disposal
CIRCULAR MHH: Recycled and reusable products
SMART MHH: Femtech digital technology
Smart supply chains
26 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023
Globally, each day, roughly 1 043 000 t of human waste is produced and more than 300 million people manage their period. This vast amount of human waste – and its safe management – has an economic value.
The estimated and projected value of the sanitation economy and menstrual health hygiene market
services is especially strong, translating into circular sanitation economy investment opportunities in the construction of faecal sludge treatment facilities and the manufacturing of products such as fuel pellets and briquettes, and fertiliser, with broad societal benefits including economic growth and reducing sanitation’s environmental footprint.
The smart sanitation economy
The smart sanitation economy includes the digitised sanitation and hygiene systems that optimise data for operating efficiencies, maintenance, plus consumer use and health information insights.
While this is a small economy in many countries, there is significant and increasing potential around smartphone mobile applications, smart payment schemes, and realtime facility monitoring. Among the countries featured in this report, the smart sanitation economy’s market potential ranges from $15.6 million (R300.9 million) in Sierra Leone to $24.5 million (R472.5 million) in Nigeria.
Menstrual hygiene marketplace
The menstrual hygiene marketplace
provides access to products and services, including circular and smart menstrual hygiene solutions. This covers reusable and disposable menstrual products, the recycling and reuse of menstrual materials, and smart supply chains that extend reach, as well as digital solutions such as tracking apps.
In a world in which an estimated 1 in 4 menstruators is unable to manage their period safely, there is huge market potential for affordable menstrual hygiene products of choice. As product access increases, so does the need – and demand – for solutions that reduce the environmental impact of single-use menstrual products in favour of environmental and climate-smart options.
In the featured countries, the estimated current total value of the menstrual hygiene marketplace ranges from $4 million (R77.2 million) in Sierra Leone to $371.2 million (R7.15 billion) in Nigeria. It is expected to reach $3 billion (R57.8 billion) in the five countries combined once universal access has been achieved.
The circular menstrual health hygiene (MHH) market has the potential to reach $0.7 million (R13.5 million) in Sierra Leone and $17.7 million (R341.4 million) in Nigeria, and the smart MHH market has the potential to reach $0.2 million (R3.8 million) in Sierra Leone and $5.7 million (R109.9 million) in Nigeria.
Sanitation economies – comprising the toilet economy, circular sanitation economy, and smart sanitation economy – as well as the menstrual hygiene marketplace could unlock close to a potential $22 billion (R424.3 billion) in economic gain, job creation, women’s empowerment, and environmental protection by 2030 in Benin, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Uganda alone.
Working globally and with an initial footprint in Africa, SHF is mobilising resources to develop and fund a pipeline of investable propositions to create sustainable sanitation economies and menstrual hygiene marketplaces in lowand lower-middle-income countries.
Download the From Human Waste to Prosperity: The Sanitation Economy Report here: https://www.shfund.org/sites/default/files/2023-03/SHFund_Flagship%20report-WEB.pdf
Inadequate access to sanitation is estimated to cost African countries 4.3% of their GDP.
• 779 million people have no basic sanitation services
• 839 million are without basic hygiene
• only 27% use safely managed sanitation services.
Achieving the 2030 SDG target requires a 20-fold increase in rates of progress for safely managed sanitation services and a 42-fold increase for basic hygiene services.
The estimated economic return on sanitation spending in subSaharan Africa is $2.80 per $1.00 invested.
Currently, households provide the largest proportion of funding for sanitation through connection tariffs, emptying service fees, and investment in toilets and on-site containment and treatment technologies.
Globally, faecal sludge (and poorly managed wastewater) is responsible for 2–6% of methane emissions and 1–3% of nitrous oxide emissions. In carbon accounting terms, 1 t of methane is equal to 34 t CO2 emissions, and 1 t of nitrous oxide is worth 298 t CO2 emissions.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 27
Analysis of the sanitation value chain exposes multiple entry points for market development and job creation via the private sector
FLUSHING SOLUTION FOR NON SEWERED SANITATION
WEC Projects’ NEWgenerator system is a promising alternative to dangerous pit and chemical toilets, particularly in areas where water is scarce. It addresses sanitation, access to water, and energy independence. Kirsten Kelly interviews Wayne Taljaard, managing director of WEC Projects, about the system’s commercialisation and lessons learnt from pilot projects.
We are now tendering on a commercial bid, and have seen increased commercial interest in the product. This has happened after a long period of prototyping with a focus on simplifying the technology and providing a product that can be manufactured and supported locally,” explains Taljaard.
The NEWgenerator was developed by the University of South Florida in the USA and built under licence in South Africa by WEC Projects. It is a compact, off-grid, modular sewage treatment solution that can be housed inside a refurbished shipping container. Tested extensively
in India and then in South Africa, the NEWgenerator was piloted in conjunction with the University of KwaZulu-Natal in the eThekwini area. A permanent unit imported from the USA was installed in a small, informal community called Slovoville in Soweto with the assistance of Johannesburg Water. Another system was installed at an Eastern Cape primary school and was designed and built for African conditions by WEC Projects.
At Slovoville, WEC Projects appointed a community liaison officer and conducted a number of surveys to assess the level of acceptance for the NEWgenerator system (with positive responses). Since the NEWgenerator system at Slovoville is topped up with potable water for the wash basins, the excess, nutrient-rich water was used to grow vegetables for the community, which was appreciated. For the time being, a janitor at Slovoville is being paid to keep the toilets clean, and toilet paper and cleaning aids are provided for; however, this is not a sustainable model and communities will have to take responsibility for supplying these necessities going forward.
“One of the challenges in prototyping the NEWgenerator system was adopting a mindset change. As a leading EPC contractor, WEC Projects specialises in the provision of engineered solutions in the water and wastewater treatment industry. We had to adjust our approach from a company that typically builds large-scale, complex water treatment plants to building tiny, simple water treatment plants. For instance, a NEWgenerator system (designed for 100 people) will process roughly 1 250 ℓ/day of wastewater. One of our treatment plants will do that in just a few hours. Sourcing equipment such as, for example, smaller-sized pumps for sewage has been difficult; one needs to
consider cost, flow rates and maintenance,” states Taljaard.
Simplifying technology and reducing costs
Taljaard adds that people managing the NEWgenerator system are not trained water professionals and have no supervision. “They can be a janitor or a handyman that may not have an education or even be literate. He or she will not use a human-machine interface (HMI) but will typically communicate a problem over the phone and the team from WEC Projects must respond remotely. These plants must therefore be operationally simple to run but also have the functionality in the backend for remote monitoring.”
Sanitation is a cost-sensitive service. WEC Projects has managed to halve the price of the imported NEWgenerator system from the USA through simplifying technology and ‘Africanising’ it. The company is constantly trying to find new and better ways to make the system even more affordable and easier to transport and install. By ensuring that the NEWgenerator is locally manufactured with locally sourced materials, the system is cheaper and also easier to maintain and repair. Parts can be readily sourced and normal tools can be used instead of waiting for imported parts or finding a person or company who owns specialised tools.
Sanitation is often needed in rural areas with no grid structure or water source. “This is where the NEWgenerator system shines, as it does not require a full sewer network or power supply. A unique feature of the NEWgenerator is that it can run independently off the power grid, using solar power to operate or it can be hooked up to a generator. This makes it particularly suitable for use in South Africa, where the country’s unreliable
The NEWgenerator system is a promising alternative to dangerous pit and chemical toilets
The glass on the left is raw sewage and the glass on the right is water from treated effluent used to flush the toilets
28 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023
Wayne Taljaard, MD, WEC Projects
power grid – prone to loadshedding and unscheduled outages – has had an adverse impact on existing infrastructure and equipment. Presently, even developed urban areas are often without power or access to water for prolonged periods. Furthermore, up to 99% of water can be recycled for reuse in the system. The NEWgenerator system can treat the sewage from toilets and then recycle the treated wastewater back to the toilet for reuse, ensuring a consistent water supply,” says Gunter Rencken, technical director, WEC Projects.
The NEWgenerator system incorporates an anaerobic bioreactor to treat biological matter and breakdown solids, ultrafiltration to remove solids, sequential nutrient capture tanks, and chlorine disinfection. For larger systems, biogas produced can be captured and used for applications such as cooking and heating.
Engineering and commercialisation
WEC Projects has invested a great deal of
time, money and expertise in engineering development and commecialisation of the NEWgenerator. A lot of this work has also been funded and supported through the SASTEP initiative of the Water Research Commission (WRC). SASTEP is a platform that fast-tracks the adoption of innovative and emerging sanitation technologies in South Africa through fostering local manufacturing and commercialisation. With more than 2 700 informal settlements in South Africa and approximately 13% of its population living there, the WRC believes that a lot of funding can come from corporates who can allocate their CSI towards providing better sanitation solutions (and thereby providing dignity) to needy communities.
“The problem with sanitation is that the person making the decision on the type of toilet or system used is seldom the person who is using that toilet or system. There is a massive disconnect and often a complete lack of understanding about the reality of some of the areas where sanitation is needed. Often, there is no grid system, no water supply, no roads to transport the system, and a lack of machinery like excavators to dig holes for septic tanks. A complete paradigm shift is needed when addressing sanitation and absolutely everyone involved needs to be on the same page. The NEWgenerator system has produced good results and we believe it is the future for sanitation,” concludes Taljaard.
WEC Projects recently connected the Khanyisani Primary School’s toilet block to a water and waste treatment and recycling system (NEWgenerator 100 system). The school in Lubunde, near Bizana in the Eastern Cape, lacks consistent water supply. NEWgenerator 100 is capable of handling waste for up to 100 users, and was customised to include waste from four unisex urinals, which is redirected back to the plant to supplement the liquid content of the wastewater for treatment and recycling. The treated water, which is not suitable for consumption, is fed back to flush the toilets, resulting in a significant reduction in water consumption by the school, which relies mainly on rainwater for drinking water.
Monitored and controlled both locally and remotely via an interface connected to a programmable logic controller, the NEWgenerator system is maintained and operated by a trained school staff member with the support of WEC. Samples of the recycled water are taken monthly for analysis by an accredited laboratory to ensure that the treated water meets ISO 30500 discharge standards. WEC will continue to operate the system with the Water Research Commission until April 2024.
Inside the NEWgenerator at the handover launch in Slovoville, an informal community in Soweto
NEWgenerator at the Khanyasani Primary School
NEW generator at an E astern C ape P rimary S chool
In partnership with the Water Research Commission (WRC), the City of Cape Town has entered into an agreement to provide sanitation units that recycle water and are energy efficient, suitable for use during disaster relief or for servicing low-income communities in areas where traditional infrastructure is inaccessible.
CAPE TOWN TO PILOT NEW SANITATION TECHNOLOGIES
innovative sanitation technologies in the long-term pipeline for informal settlement development.
The City of Cape Town (CoCT) currently spends more than R300 million in annual servicing costs of toilets in informal settlements. This includes 15 000 chemical toilets, 10 800 container-based toilets, 26 000 portable flush toilets, and 175 conservancy tanks.
Through grant funding provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the roll-out of the Community Reinvented Toilets will be trialled in up to five different high-density settlements across Cape Town.
“This pilot project came at the right time, where sustainable and dignified sanitation is not just a goal but an imperative. Partnerships like these are invaluable. By joining forces with organisations such as the WRC and the BMGF, we are not merely providing a service; we are enhancing human dignity. This project illustrates how collective action can propel us towards
a more equitable and sustainable future for all,' says Councillor Zahid Badroodien, MMC: Water and Sanitation, CoCT.
Site selection criteria will be developed by the project team to identify eligible pilot sites, followed by a technical feasibility assessment to confirm suitability of each site in terms of the proposed technologies.
A key component that will determine the success of the project is the level of support from the beneficiary communities, particularly where demonstration units are placed. The CoCT intends to use a portion of the grant to appoint service providers tasked to facilitate meaningful engagement with affected residents. A detailed community engagement plan will be developed and adjusted as required, taking into account feedback from all relevant stakeholders.
The intention is initially to pilot, then scale up the implementation of the
The three-year agreement comprises demonstration of technologies verified through the WRC’s approved innovation platform (SASTEP) or through the City’s Water and Sanitation Directorate. The vision of the SASTEP intervention is to increase local manufacturing and jobs, while meeting quality standards by incubating technologies that assist local government in building a sustainable and more capable society.
The signing of the grant agreement between the CoCT and the BMGF – as well as the memorandum of agreement with the WRC as the research and technology demonstration partner – is a significant milestone in the objective set out in the City’s Integrated Development Plan, to provide access to dignified basic services for all. This investment will provide a better quality of life for approximately 18.6% of households currently living in informality in the city.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 31 ON-SITE SANITATION
School sanitation needs little introduction. The need is known, the current provisions are inadequate, and progress has slowed. But just how expensive is this problem? This article looks at what it would cost to provide water and sanitation at one school in KwaZulu-Natal.
By Lloyd Govender, project engineer, BORDA
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT? SCHOOL SANITATION:
Sarasvati Primary School (SPS) is located within the Frasers Settlement of Tongaat and was constructed in 1943 by Indian settlers who took up the task of building the school to educate all children in the settlement and surrounding areas. In 2012, BORDA (a German non-governmental organisation), together with eThekwini Water and Sanitation (EWS), identified the school as a beneficiary for new toilets and an on-site treatment system as a part of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) formed between the Department of Education and eThekwini Municipality to upgrade school sanitation.
The idea was to create food sustainability; where collected rainwater irrigates crops and the biogas produced by the on-site sanitation system provides the energy for cooking. The initiative is funded from the MoU; the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and BORDA partnered to drive the project.
The first attempt
The Decentralised Wastewater Treatment System (DEWATS), together with a completed toilet block (11 toilets in total), was commissioned on 16 January 2012 and cost R1 305 000, where R355 000 was allocated to the treatment system. The system was designed to retain 4 m³ of biogas from the 5 m³ of wastewater
flowing through the system daily (a 9 m³ containment) and coffered three wastewater treatment steps – a biogas settler (BGS), an anaerobic baffled reactor (ABR), and an anaerobic filter (AF), with the treated wastewater flowing through an infiltration bed, underneath the school’s sports field.
An eager caretaker and an enthusiastic teacher drove the project and it was successful until the middle of 2015. The biogas development wasn’t as expected (around 1 m³ at maximum), so conventional gas and electricity were used to prepare food from crops grown within the community garden for the learners. The presence of the treatment system and toilet block provided a safe
32 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023
1 2 3
environment, thus the initiative was still successful. SPS is classified as a no-income school, so this system worked brilliantly.
A failure and rectification
A few years after the programme was running, the socio-economic situation of the surrounding community deteriorated due to a mix of lost employment and an increase in substance abuse. This led to thefts at the school (the toilets and fixtures), and damaged infrastructure (for no good reason). Furthermore, inclement weather literally blew off the classroom roofs. A wood termite infestation weakened the timber roofs – and on a Monday morning after a horrid weekend of wind and rain, teachers and learners returned to classrooms filled with roof-rubble.
Very shortly after that, an unstable electricity supply and shortage of potable water left the school at the mercy of water tankers. The school learnt that the reason for the intermittent power supply was due to the illegal connection made by residents, which kept causing service outages, and while the principal appealed to the local community, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was demonstrated and the school invested in a generator. Everything around the school continuously degraded, beside the treatment system, which was designed in a way that kept it safe underground, and with zero theft value, just pure concrete and brickwork – from chambers to manhole covers.
EWS came through to fill up the water tanks on a regular basis since 2019, and the Department of Education brought in the mobile classrooms – one in 2019 and two others between 2020 and 2021. Unfortunately, these temporary structures became a permanent solution. The water situation improved through the donation of a borehole by an Islamic organisation and the Sibaya Trust came through with funding to provide a combined toilet block that would cater to boys, girls, and learners with physical impairments. The principal and teachers went a step further to write to the private sector and were fortunate to receive funding to keep the generator
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 33 SCHOOL SANITATION
1 Purification filters installed by BORDA to improve water quality 2 Local tools were used to produce tank stands 3 Manholes clog when water reticulation is absent 4 Manholes cleaned to allow for sewage flow 5 D EWATS above the ground 6 DEWATS below ground
4 5 6
The new Sibaya toilet block
running, a few extra water tanks filled, and a supply of bread for the learners to take home.
I was conducting the assessment for BORDA projects in South Africa and arrived on-site to find that the school had lost the records of the on-site treatment system (in the midst of everything happening), but had no issues with the current sanitation system. Interestingly enough, the teachers described the system in the following way: “We don’t know what it really is, but our wastewater flows in there, and we haven’t had an issue with the system.” Personally, I felt happy, but then l broke the tunnel vision created by my mission to test the system’s wastewater quality and looked around to find the school in serious need of many supporting items, like new taps, new toilet doors, gutter replacement, tanker stands, and general repair from flood damage. Thankfully, through effective teamwork
and communication (I cannot stress enough the importance of listening, talking, and ensuring actions are kept), a grant was secured and, by January 2023, the school was up and running again.
In 2012, the DEWATS for 300 learners cost R355 000, while the toilet block of 11 toilets cost R950 000. The water and electricity were supplied by the municipality, so at that time, the school had safe sanitation.
Fast forward to 2021, the Sibaya Trust donated R1 000 000 to erect a new toilet block. A borehole (drilled to a depth of 80 m) was estimated at R140 000, and BORDA spent an estimated R100 000 on construction and lab-based activities to ensure that the water and sanitation systems in place were stable for use.
I then got to thinking... what about schools that have little to nothing, just pit toilets or prehistoric pits and water supplied by tankers? I decided to have a look at what could be the cost in 2023:
• The same style of DEWATS: R500 000 (we now know that 1 m³ of biogas is the real figure, so the system could be 3 m³ smaller)
• A toilet block: R700 000 (there is much innovation in the toilet sphere and creating a sustainable building is really a ‘per innovation’ cost estimate these days)
• Borehole: R300 000
• General construction and pipework: R200 000
A rough figure of R1 700 000 is where I was at but for this works, consultants and project staff would need to be used, and if we factor in how unstable the material price has gotten in 2023 due to many reasons (sometimes just greed), we could safely assume R2 500 000 as a conservative figure.
I’m sure someone reading this article is thinking, “Hmmm... really, Lloyd?” If that person is you, you will be happy to hear that we are testing this theory – we are building a sanitation system that has a constructed wetland (one step further... well, a few), together with a toilet block at another school in KZN, for a combined load of 768 learners (368 more than SPS) and the project came in at R2 600 000, including a 10% contingency, with an education campaign, but excluding a borehole. (We are hoping to use the contingency for that, but we have engaged the project stakeholders to level up that initiative.) So, it’s not entirely apples for apples but it’s apples enough! The next bit of thinking looked a bit more at the operation and maintenance side. The school janitor could be employed to operate and maintain the system, and the local municipality could be capacitated to deal with the desludging needed once every two years. We found that no desludging happened at SPS for 10 years, until December 2022! The system was still fine; however, that system had 3 m³ additional capacity due to the biogas never reaching its desired range of 4 m³ (in storage capacity terms).
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1 The original toilet block before it was vandalised
2 The vandalised toilet block that is no longer in use
Doors were placed on the vandalised toilet block to hide the unsightly broken toilets
I visited the site during the month of July 2023, and found that the school had been without power due to the collapse of the transformer under the load of additional illegal connections. I was told that the electrical department of the municipality hadn’t provided feedback on a date for resolution of this crippling challenge, mainly due to residents wanting their illegal connection to remain in place. This has since stopped the borehole from running, and water has been brought to the school by municipal tankers once again. The school now runs on a generator to power the printer, and computers for a few hours a day, and last but still standing, the DEWATS, which runs solely on gravity, and without the need for chemical inputs. About the toilets – as I can’t leave those out of the ‘what’s happening’ section – they are still running, but must be filled up before use, using the bucket system.
The first crisis was a mix of misfortune, vandalism, and the lack of resources to repair the problem – in essence, a failure of operation, maintenance, and security. The second time around, the absence of electricity resulted in water tankers being needed, toilets having to be filled manually, and overall inconvenience, but teaching could still continue – so, in this case, it’s not ideal but it is not a failure; it’s an added stress to school staff.
There is a whole new article for arguing the electricity situation here, but I will leave that to others. What this does show is that we need to integrate alternative water and sanitation solutions. There are currently low-flush toilets and precast construction options available, there is the DEWATS for on-site treatment, and there is solar power for boreholes or perhaps increasing water tanker storage on-site, where municipal supply isn’t possible (one would have to be creative here to power the pumps needed for borehole). One thing is clearly evident; it is that the public sector really needs to work with the private sector and grant funders to create solutions. Yes, the government is meant
FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS
• Prefabricated versus traditional build
The prefabricated top structure is 17% more expensive per seat than the traditional build. However, the prefabricated version has some advantages:
- The preliminary and general costs are approximately 10% lower for the prefabricated system, as the majority of the construction takes place off-site.
- The installations are vandal-proof and not easily damaged or broken
- It is easy to change the design of the facilities due to their modular form
• Water savings
Water-saving installations result in 40% less water used. These devices can be installed in any ablution facility, regardless of whether a prefabricated or brick-built system is used. Rainwater harvesting for flushing toilets contributes to reduced water use.
• School garden
The establishment of a school garden is a successful approach to use as it teaches life skills to the learners and provides a source of income. Rainwater harvesting for watering the garden is essential.
to provide all of the bells and whistles, but that will not happen; however, what can happen is engagement, incorporation, and – most importantly – the inclusion of all sectors. It’s now, or not at all.
• Wastewater treatment and biogas production
- The benefits of a DEWATS treatment plant are that the biogas produced can be used for cooking and that the treated effluent generated can be used for irrigation.
- Due to insufficient space, the planted gravel bed could not be installed and therefore the effluent from the DEWATS could not be used for irrigation of the school garden.
- Limited volumes of biogas were produced, which was insufficient for the cooking requirements at the school.
- The extra costs associated with this type of system over a traditional septic tank system therefore do not warrant its installation. Further research into the generation and use of biogas need to be undertaken.
- The use of a caretaker to maintain the facility was found to successful, as it ensured that the toilets were kept clean and tidy, and that the learners did not misuse the facilities. The caretaker has now been removed from the school and the real benefits will be better understood once the conditions with and without the caretaker are compared.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 35
BORDA installed this portable booster pump to allow the drinking water to be supplied directly to the classroom to prevent kids having to walk during teaching hours to get drinking water
Baby tanks on tank stands that work with the booster pumps were placed outside the classrooms
Quality education and sanitation at Tsholetsega Primary
An odourless, zero-discharge, self-contained treatment plant has significantly reduced absenteeism, the risk of infectious diseases, and saved water resources at a school in Mogale City.
collection tank. The tank provides residence time for the wastewater to equalise. The tank inventory is then pumped by the macerator pump and lift pump to the treatment section of the system, where suspended solids are removed before undergoing aerobic and anoxic biological treatment. The treated stream is then passed through a membrane biological reactor (MBR). The MBR membranes serve as microbial barriers that can capture most of the biomass for recirculation inside the bioreactor. This produces water that can be reused in the system that is then pumped (under 3 Pa) for toilet flushing or discharged into a downstream sewer directly or be reused as irrigation water. The entire system is automated and remotely monitored.
Testing of two models
Located in Krugersdorp and built in the early 1940s, Tsholetsega Primary School has 1 300 students and 42 staff members. Most of the students come from informal settlements where there are no toilets. While the school had an ablution system, it did not have capacity for all the learners and staff members, so it frequently overflowed, causing the school to shut down for days on end.
Adapted for local conditions
The South African Sanitation Technology Evaluation Programme (SASTEP) –spearheaded by the Water Research Commission – assisted with the introduction of the Clear recirculating toilet at the school. The toilet system was originally developed by Clear Environmental Technologies, a Chinese company, but is now manufactured locally by South African firm Enviro Loo
in Gauteng. “We had to first ensure that the unit could cope under local conditions. The macerator pump size was increased to cope with sanitary items and toilet paper. In China, these items are not flushed down the toilet but thrown in a bin. The software was also changed, and is available in South Africa’s local languages,” explains Mark la Trobe, COO, Enviro Loo.
How it works
The system collects waste from flush-type toilets, which is then treated by a closed system on-site. Once the toilet is flushed, the waste stream from the toilet travels to a blackwater
Two models are currently being tested at the school, namely the Clear TT-5 containerised four-seat front- and back-end treatment plant ablution facility, with a total daily maximum capacity of 600 flushes. In turn, the TT-6 back-end treatment plant is connected to an existing 25-seat (inclusive of male urinals), with a total maximum capacity of 4 000 flushes. The installed toilets use between 3 ℓ and 5 ℓ of water per flush. Wash basins for handwashing using potable water have also been provided. The system is currently plugged into the municipal electricity system, but can operate using solar power.
36 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023
Mark la Trobe, COO, Enviro Loo
Water samples are regularly tested offsite. In the case of an emergency, sewage can be redirected into the municipal sewer line, reducing the risk of spills.
Saving water and restoring dignity
According to La Trobe, the unit has to be serviced every six months to clean
membranes and then every 18 months to remove the sludge. Since most of the system is containerised, this negates the need for expensive on-site civil construction. “The system installed at the Tsholetsega Primary School is performing excellently, and preliminary results are very encouraging.”
“We believe that the technology has the potential to transform the landscape of the South African sanitation industry –6–9 ℓ of water is used every time a toilet is flushed. With this closed-loop system, once the tank is filled up, it does not need to fill up again – the water keeps recycling. The water saving brought to the school is huge. If everyone could embrace this closed-loop environment, we would secure water for the future,” La Trobe adds.
“Tsholetsega Primary School now provides quality education as well as quality sanitation. My pupils’ dignity has been restored. And once a child has dignity, they will do wonders in the classroom,” says Nozibele Constance Rajuile, principal of Tsholetsega Primary School.
Enviro Loo started producing nonsewered toilet solutions three decades ago and has five installations of its closed-circuit wastewater treatment model across South Africa.
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WHY DO SANITATION PROJECTS NEVER SCALE UP?
Every day, we hear about pilot projects that kicked off with great pomp and fervour, only for the infrastructure to be found lying in states of disuse a few weeks, months, and years after the photo ops have passed.
By Jennifer Williams, executive director, Faecal Sludge Management Alliance
According to a 2018 study by Oxfam and the Water, Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC) at Loughborough University, 40% of women and girls were not using emergency latrines built by humanitarian agencies. This is because they were inaccessible, unsuitable and/or unsafe, and it is a story from many different places in the world. It is what is fundamentally wrong with international development pilot projects and why there is the saying that “pilots never fail and pilots never scale.”
Unsafe drinking water
There are currently over 3.6 billion people who lack access to safely managed sanitation services. And much of that unsafely managed human waste ends up in waterways or sources of drinking water. We need new technology that is better adapted to climate change but that also means we need a new approach in how we introduce projects into communities; one that will actually ensure that these technologies will be used.
Imagine there is a low-income community and while they do have access to drinking water, they have do not have toilets in their house. So, well-intentioned non-governmental organisations (NGOs) come and
38 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023
install toilets in many of the households in the community. Someone comes from the NGO and poses for their photo op, which is published in the local news and there are many smiling faces. But that’s only part of the story. The well-meaning NGO doesn’t fund any water supply, waste treatment processing, community education, nor operation and maintenance funding. So, the toilets remain largely unused because the NGO installed flush toilets and there is not enough water to flush with. Intentions don’t always solve problems.
A little while later, the government installs a water tank, so now all the residents have water to flush with and can now use the toilets in their home. Except, there is no treatment and the human waste flows through pipes directly into the river where people fish. The river is now polluted and carrying pathogens that will make people sick if they come into contact with it.
Now imagine another company goes to the same community to install new-technology community toilets. But they do not conduct a feasibility study because it’s a corporate social responsibility (CSR) project and shouldn’t the residents in this low-income community just accept the gift that is being given to them? The toilets are installed during Covid, so the team isn’t able to travel to the community. Again, there is no community education and no plan for operation and maintenance. The company is based in a country where they receive a subsidy for the cost of electricity. No one bothers to check the local rate of electricity where the unit is installed but it is significantly higher. The new toilet treatment connected to the toilet block ends up costing the community
several hundred US dollars per month. Far more than you or I pay in our homes. There is resentment now from the community because they have to bear this added cost. And because there was no training of the community operators, they unplug the system to lower the cost of electricity. No one told them that the machine has to stay on, or the treatment process stops. They regularly turn the machine off when they think it is not in use, which stops the treatment process and the wastewater is no longer treated. These are sadly not unique experiences, but experiences from international development projects around the world. New approaches are needed, as even the best intentions can lead to negative unintended consequences and a proliferation of pilots that will never fail nor scale. The factors that led to this outcome were not technical – they were human and user error. These can be fixed easily.
Failure should be seen as an opportunity to learn lessons before scaling up. eThekwini Municipality in South Africa serves as a good example. Between 1996 and 2001, the municipal boundaries of eThekwini (around the city of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal) expanded to include an additional one million residents, mostly in underserved, rural areas and informal settlements. There’s an understanding that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work to provide safe sanitation to everyone and this is why pilot programmes in the municipality are only carried out when there is an 80% chance of success. It’s only once they are successful that they are rolled out at scale.
Unfortunately, governments and donors might have different incentives; the ballot can be punitive if governments fail to address the needs of constituents. Donors do not actually want to
provide funding for the elements that would help better ensure both real success and the ability to scale. Pilots are designed for photo ops and feel-good press – they are not designed to scale. The artificial constructs and barriers that donors have created prevent the very outcomes they say they want to see –meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Market research shows us that the opportunity is huge for new technology, but it needs to be introduced in a smart and thoughtfully planned way that includes: community operator education; a feasibility study estimating the operation and maintenance (O&M) costs, including basic expenses like electricity; a trained O&M service provider; and financing for O&M contracts. Without these four key elements, pilots are bound never to scale, leaving us steps further from reaching the SDGs.
Another key reason for our collective failure is the reluctance to openly discuss projects when they do not go well or have unintended consequences. These types of stories never go into the grant report or the press release.
We need a paradigm shift from all the stakeholders involved. First, governments need to stop working in silos and plan water projects together with sanitation projects. Funders need to fund O&M costs for any infrastructure they pay to install along with community education and training for the O&M provider. NGOs need to think through the entire sanitation value chain – just installing toilets is not enough. We need safe transport and treatment to ensure we do not contaminate water resources. We will not have clean water until we have safely managed sanitation. We must make this change urgently as the clock ticks down to 2030 and climate change accelerates. There is still time to learn from our mistakes and make a change, but it will require a shift in several different types of policies, more coordination, and more education. Our earth is facing increasing uncertainty and if we learned anything from Covid, it is that outdated approaches are no longer serving us.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 39 INNOVATION
MEET THE ONLY CHITOSAN MANUFACTURER IN AFRICA
We use skins from the larvae of the black soldier fly. This is a far more sustainable source of chitosan when compared to shellfish. For example, the harvesting, sale and processing of the blue crab in the USA is heavily regulated due to its diminishing population. Populations of various crustaceans are also dropping
important role that they play in the ocean’s ecosystem. Another problem is that crustaceans often absorb heavy metals and can pose health risks to individuals who are allergic to iodine. Our chitosan comes from insect skins that are farmed under strict controls to ensure that the highest purity of chitosan can be produced. We utilise green synthesis techniques to synthesise our various forms of chitosan. The end-product is a water-soluble, biodegradable, and nontoxic chitosan. There is also minimal wastage because the protein extract from the larvae is used as an additive for animal foods. The entire process is fully traceable,” explains Russel Hawkins, CEO, Nannochem. Chitosan-based nanomaterials are widely used in water and wastewater treatment, as well as in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical, textile, food packaging, and agricultural industries.
Nannochem has in collaboration with the University of Cape Town synthesised a groundbreaking amino chitosan. “If more than a 2% dosage of chitosan is used, the solution becomes very viscous, limiting the application. With this new product, up to a 20% dosage can be used. Furthermore, the
efficacy of the amino chitosan only requires 0.1% loading compared to the 1% loading of the standard chitosan to be as effective as an antimetrical agent.
Using nanotechnology to remove contaminants from water sources is nothing new. Nanoparticles have great absorbent, electrical (zeta potential), and antimicrobial properties.
Nannochem manufactures nano zerovalent aluminium, nano zerovalent ferric, and nano zerovalent aluminium ferric complex for the water and wastewater industry.
A natural biopolymer derived from chitin, chitosan is a substance commonly found in the shells of crustaceans. It has great absorbent properties and is often used as a coagulant and flocculent in water and wastewater treatment.
A Pretoria-based company – Nannochem – is prioritising sustainability and creating chitosan from insect skins. By Kirsten Kelly
Chitosan is a substance commonly found in the shells of crustaceans
Russel Hawkins, CEO, Nannochem
THE SIZE OF A NANOMETRE
The average human hair = 7–9 microns in diameter
1 micron = 1 000 nanometers
“We identified a gap in the market and decided to locally synthesise various nano colloids and powders ourselves, making the end product far more cost-effective. Our manufacturing protocols are rapidly scalable. Furthermore, Nannochem is a green company – we manufacture and research technologies to replace hazardous chemicals that are pumped into our waterways,” adds Hawkins.
According to Hawkins, nanotechnology in the water and wastewater sector has great potential because of the large volumes of chemicals used. “The particle size of nanoparticles provides a much greater surface area due to their very small size. For instance, 1 g of nanoparticles, which have a diameter of 5 nanometres in size, can cover the surface area of an entire rugby field. By using nanotechnology, you can
THE BLACK SOLDIER FLY
The black soldier fly is a common and widespread fly inhabiting nutrient-rich environments and producing economically attractive vast amounts of larvae. This fly is known as a fast-breeding insect and is a good and environmentally friendly biological source of fat and protein for animal and fish feed.
use substantially less product and achieve significantly better results. Nannochem’s products outperform the more traditional chemicals and are more cost-effective,” he adds.
Less is better
“Our NanoClear-1, -2, and -3 are our potable and wastewater treatment products that are formulated at a 60% concentration; however, these products are diluted down to a 10% concentration, meaning that they are 10 times more efficient than traditional ferric chloride and aluminium chloride products,” Hawkins explains. Traditionally, ferric chloride aluminium chloride solutions contain between 40–45% solids, whereas the NanoClear products only require 10% solids of the nano zerovalent ferric and aluminium to be as effective.
These reductions in dosage requirements translate to extensive cost savings in transport costs. “There will also a 50% reduction in the use of coagulant aids such as polyamine and PolyDADMAC when using our NanoClear products, which is an additional cost saving for wastewater treatment works.
“A costing analysis was done on one of South Africa’s large private WWTWs that consumes approximately 200 t of ferric chloride per month. They would now only use 20 t of NanoClear-3 to perform that same function. In addition, the same WWTW would also see a 50% reduction in its monthly coagulant aid expenses,” reveals Hawkins.
Keeping it green
Nannochem recently completed the development of its NanoMAG and MicroMAG products. These two products are a direct replacement for caustic soda, otherwise known as sodium hydroxide. Caustic soda is a hazardous chemical used in many industries such as wastewater treatment, paper and pulp, CIP, and mining entry, to name a few.
Besides being specified as a hazardous chemical, it is also a very dangerous chemical for people to work with. There are strictly mandated safety protocols when working with caustic soda. Environmentally, caustic soda is a serious problem, as it increases the salinity of the water, which is extremely
Nannochem’s water treatment products are revolutionising the water treatment industry in South Africa in that they are more cost-effective, efficient, and greener for the environment
bad for the sustainability of an already fragile aqueous ecosystem. Both NanoMAG and MicroMAG are biodegradable, bioavailable, nontoxic, and ecofriendly products that are a direct replacement for caustic side and lime used in wastewater treatment among other industries. Hawkins states, “Our Nano and Micro magnesium hydroxide are substantially safer, more effective, and more environmentally beneficial than caustic soda or lime.” He goes on further to say, “These two products contain 37% more alkali gram for gram when compared to caustic soda, meaning that you have to use 40% less product when doing a pH rectification.”
Interestingly, Hawkins says that MicroMAG is a nutrient to microorganisms, maintaining the optimum bacterial growth conditions in both aerobic and anaerobic processes, whereas NanoMAG offers superior efficacy for CIP systems and other processes where the inhibition of viruses, bacteria, spores, and fungi is a requirement. Addressing the safety concern when using caustic soda, NanoMAG and MicroMAG are completely safe should they come into contact with a person’s skin. In addition, both products buffer at a pH of 9. This prevents pH spikes – which can result in costly remediation and equipment damage – from happening.
Ultimately, Nannochem’s water treatment products can revolutionise the water treatment industry in South Africa to become more cost-effective, efficient, and greener for the environment.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 41
Where are you on the road to water digitisation?
Municipalities are looking for opportunities to improve service delivery and cash flow. Yet many still don't realise the hidden gains of digitising their water systems.
By Chetan Mistry, strategy and marketing manager, Xylem Africa
Non-revenue water costs our economy R7.2 billion annually. This drain primarily hits municipal pockets, for example, eThekwini Municipality's 50% non-revenue water losses amount to R700 million annually. Tackling non-revenue water is far easier than increasing rates and taxes. Investing in water infrastructure builds a municipality's financial and service future. And it is within reach through water digitisation.
Water digitisation can occur without removing current systems and infrastructure. It represents a range of benefits: cost-savings, automation, greater efficiencies, and data-driven strategic planning. Whether to improve wastewater, manage pipe infrastructure, enhance billing capture and delivery, or reduce pollution, municipalities can achieve great things quickly with digitisation.
Every municipality should consider digitising their water systems. But where do they start? The first step is to know where they currently are. A landmark paper by the International Water Federation and Xylem explores this question and identifies a maturity spectrum for water digitisation.
The digital maturity of water operations runs through five categories:
• Not started: These are sites with only legacy analogue infrastructure. There
are no digital strategies or technologies in play.
• Basic: Basic sites have begun incorporating digital technologies into their operations. They are developing online monitoring capabilities by combining Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and Internet of Things (IoT) systems.
• Opportunistic: Sites qualify as opportunistic; they start redesigning their operations with digital automation and control enhancements. A clear sign is the presence of analytics tools utilised for process optimisation.
• Systematic: In systematic sites, digital technologies are well established. There is evident inter-process automation and control, and the site's internal resources and platforms work with digital infrastructure.
• Transformational: In the most mature stage, transformation sites incorporate digital technologies across business and operations processes, using advanced analytics for decision-making.
Many water-management systems in South Africa still fall in the first two categories, with some moving up the stack. But this is not a race. It’s not imperative that water sites all graduate to ‘transformational’. Every digital addition to a site will deliver benefits in costs and performance. A ‘basic’ site will produce considerably more benefits than one still at the starting line. Every step forward leads to outsized results.
Moving up the maturity spectrum: the IWA and Xylem report offers some advice:
• Not started: Acknowledge digitisation as a business priority and develop a digital strategy. Pursue pilot projects to explore digital implementation.
• Basic: Mobilise pilot projects and learn
from industry peers and research. Inform customers and employees of the new direction, and look at how to transition recording, billing, and similar processes from paper to digital.
• Opportunistic: Enhance and stabilise data infrastructure and align operations around data-driven goals. These steps will lay the pipes for incorporating nextlevel technologies.
• Systematic: Use new digital technologies to develop new products and services through digital technology. Develop an evolving digital framework and align projects with the new digitally powered business strategy.
• Transformational: The work is not done! Continue using digital technologies to implement increased efficiencies. Exchange best practices with other utilities and study the breakthroughs in the modern water industry.
Municipalities can increase revenue and service delivery, often through a few straightforward deployments of digital services. They can analyse their current stockpiles of data, add digital dashboards and alerts for site personnel, inspect pipes and other infrastructure cheaply and without service disruption, activate smart billing, reduce pump energy and maintenance, and much more.
42 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023
A STRATEGY FOR SANITATION SUCCESS
The UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and DrinkingWater (GLAAS) 2018/2019 Report gave South Africa two recommendations to improve its sanitation services:
1) The management of faecal sludge and beneficiation of both wastewater and faecal sludge should be initiated.
2) The World Health Organization’s sanitation guideline should be fully recognised and integrated into the national agenda.
Furthermore, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.2 target has been an important guide for the DWS and it clearly calls for sanitation to be safely managed across the sanitation service chain.
By Kirsten Kelly
The strategy will guide the sector on the safe management of faecal sludge to enhance the operation and maintenance of on-site sanitation systems, prevent contamination of water resources, safeguard public health, and protect the environment from pollution throughout the sanitation service chain. “The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has shifted its focus from just the provision of sanitation facilities to safe management of the entire sanitation service chain,” says Iris Mathye, director: Sanitation, Operational & Capacity Support, DWS. There was encouragement from a global standpoint to create an FSMS.
FAECAL SLUDGE: A DEFINITION
Faecal sludge is the content that needs to be emptied from on-site sanitation systems such as container-based sanitation solutions, mobile portable toilets, septic tanks, and ventilated improved pit latrines. Faecal sludge is not transported by the sewer network to a point of treatment.
It comprises both liquid and solid content in raw or partially digested forms.
Locally, the need for an FSMS is obvious. According to a Statistics South Africa report in 2019, at least 10% (507 732) of households served with on-site sanitation technologies have full pits/containments. When pits are full, there is a high possibility of communities either reverting to open defecation or constructing makeshift pits that are dangerous and do not comply to norms and standards for constructing a sanitation facility.
Difficulties with faecal sludge
Due to its drier nature, faecal sludge can be difficult to empty from toilets, septic tanks, and pits. Companies that regularly empty toilets have also reported that it can be challenging to appropriately dispose of faecal sludge. Often, wastewater treatment plants reject faecal sludge, as it is difficult to treat together with wastewater. Faecal sludge is very different from wastewater; it is dense and highly concentrated with solids, and can disturb the functionality of wastewater treatment plants. It has been recommended that dedicated faecal sludge treatment plants should be built to support faecal
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 43 SLUDGE
Around 7 million people in South Africa use on-site sanitation with little attention given to the operation and management of these systems. Fortunately, this is changing, and the development of the Faecal Sludge Management Strategy (FSMS) is a step in the right direction.
sludge management and the reuse of human waste. Alternatively, existing wastewater treatment plants can be retrofitted with equipment for co-treatment.
Furthermore, faecal sludge is classified as hazardous waste and can therefore only be disposed of at a hazardous landfill site. There are only a few of these sites in South Africa, and it is therefore expensive to transport and dispose of faecal sludge at these sites. Very often, faecal sludge is illegally dumped.
Mathye adds that pits containing faecal sludge often also contain foreign objects and household waste like shoes, cloths, nappies, and sanitary pads, making it difficult to empty the toilets, reducing storage capacity, shortening the lifespan of the pit latrine, and making it difficult to reuse faecal sludge. “The management of
faecal sludge requires new skills. There is limited knowledge around its reuse that requires new skills and a mindset change as people, for instance, can be reluctant to buy food that has been fertilised by faecal sludge. People emptying or treating faecal sludge may be exposed to pathogens, so it is incredibly important to educate them around safety and for them to be fitted with personal protective equipment (PPE).”
Formulation of an FSMS
The DWS collaborated with the USAID Resilient Waters programme (which focuses on the SDG 6 objective of safely managed sanitation) to create the FSMS.
“Faecal sludge is still a fairly new concept in the world, and the DWS wanted to learn about faecal sludge management from other countries, and then use our local research and expertise to create a comprehensive
strategy. The USAID Resilient Waters programme and Polokwane Municipality had a separate collaboration agreement where sanitation planning tools (developed to guide and assist countries in meeting SDG 6.2) were piloted. These tools included the shit flow diagram, a sanitation safety planning tool, City Service Delivery Assessment, and an options analysis of faecal sludge technologies. Lessons learnt from the pilot project as well as research undertaken by the Water Research Commission and other research institutions were incorporated into the FSMS. It is important that the FSMS is practical and evidence based. The DWS is also working with municipalities to develop a sludge management support programme that requires sludge
44 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 SLUDGE
Lusanda Mfenqa-Agbasi, deputy director: Sanitation Operational Support
Iris Mathye, director: Sanitation, Operational & Capacity Support, DWS
Andre van der Walt, chief director: Sanitation Services Support, DWS
classification first,” explains Mathye. There have been extensive consultations with the different stakeholders in the business sector as well as different government structures at national and local level, academic institutions, research organisations, civil society, institutions, and toilet innovators. “We had two sets of stakeholders’ consultations; the first time was when we had developed a conceptual framework and the second time was when we developed the draft strategy. The DWS received a lot of guidance from these engagements and has incorporated as much as possible into the FSMS. A steering committee was developed at national level to oversee the development of the strategy and provide inputs and another one in Limpopo (focusing on the Polokwane pilot project). There have been FSMS workshops in the different provinces. The FSMS has now been finalised and is waiting for formal approval from the Minister,” states Mathye. Campaigns and appropriate educational and awareness materials are being developed by the DWS on the safe handling of faecal sludge and dispelling the notion of faecal sludge as a taboo.
“The golden rule when dealing with faecal sludge is planning and considering the entire sanitation service chain: capture, containment, emptying, transport, treatment, safe end-use, and disposal. Before an on-site sanitation system is even placed in an area, it is important to understand the geohydrological conditions in the area in order to choose the appropriate on-site sanitation or non-sewered
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NON-SEWERED AND ON-SITE SANITATION SOLUTIONS
• Non-sewered sanitation: Technologies that are not connected to the sewer system and collect, convey, and fully treat faecal sludge on-site where it is generated to allow for safe reuse or disposal.
• On-site sanitation: Technologies that are not connected to the sewer system where the faecal sludge is collected, stored, emptied, and transported to a treatment facility to allow for safe reuse and disposal. Faecal sludge is not treated at the source.
sanitation system (NSS). The DWS developed a protocol to manage the potential of groundwater contamination from on-site sanitation, which guides the sector on the assessment of the level of risk of the sanitation system to contaminate the groundwater in comparison to other sanitation alternatives and recommend measures to reduce the risks,” explains Lusanda Mfenqa-Agbasi, deputy director: Sanitation Operational Support. Capture and containment: On-site and NSS sanitation systems must be built according to norms and standards and
the filling of pits and containers meant for faecal sludge with foreign objects must be avoided.
Emptying: People emptying the sludge must use PPE and receive training to avoid exposure to pathogens and the creation of contaminated spaces.
Transportation: When transporting faecal sludge, there is a risk of an accident or spillages. Therefore, the vacuum trucks or other large vehicles with storage tanks must comply with the Road Traffic Management Act. All vehicles must be appropriately labelled to ensure that should an accident
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or spillage take place, the correct measures are in place to clean up the faecal sludge.
Treatment: The National Environment Management: Waste Act governs the treatment of faecal sludge in order to prevent a negative impact on the environment. The DWS is also investigating options regarding faecal sludge treatment plants and the retrofitting of wastewater treatment plants for the co-treatment of wastewater and faecal sludge. Some African countries already have functioning faecal sludge treatment works and the DWS will learn from them. Beneficial use: The FSMS is encouraging beneficial use of treated faecal sludge. Beneficial end-use refers to the use of treated faecal sludge through various processes to create products that can be used for different purposes such as soil conditioner, compost, vermicompost, energy/ biogas, or construction materials. The strategy encourages adherence to norms and standards in beneficial use. For example, there are norms and standards for composting developed by the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and the Environment.
Safe disposal: The strategy guides on the safe disposal of faecal sludge in South Africa. Safe disposal of
faecal sludge that has been emptied from on-site sanitation facilities and decentralised wastewater treatment sytems is a regulated activity and requires authorisation for burial of faecal sludge through deep row entrenchments.
The DWS is also updating compulsory norms and standards for water supply and sanitation
services, and faecal sludge is included in this document. Some of the regulation regarding faecal sludge involves various departments and the FSMS refers to the different legislation. “It becomes difficult for municipalities to refer to different acts and parts within these acts, so the FSMS beings all the regulations into one document. We are also assisting municipalities in reviewing and developing sanitation related by-laws,” Mathye notes.
The sanitation service chain brings huge opportunities for businesses and job creation. “There are exciting services and products that can be generated from faecal sludge, like compost, biogas, biofuels, and construction products. The uptake of non-sewered sanitation (NSS) systems will increase over the next few years and we are encouraging inventors to reinvent the toilet. Currently, there are limited assessed NSS technologies being used at a community level. It is important to use NSS technologies that have been tested and piloted to avoid failures when rolled out at a large scale. The DWS believes that NSS can bridge the gap between those communities that are unserved and the infrastructure deficit (ageing infrastructure and infrastructure operating beyond its design capacity). NSS is a safe, dignified, and comfortable solution for all South Africans,” says Andre van der Walt, chief director: Sanitation Services Support, DWS.
He adds that by 2030, there will be an estimated 17% deficit between water supply and demand, making NSS a key solution to tackling water availability. “We believe that only sanitation solutions using no to very little water must be utilised in all future developments (government and private). Sanitation is a driver for water security.”
With the increased uptake of NSS technologies and on-site systems, it will become increasingly important to manage faecal sludge properly. The FSMS will guide the improved provision of safely managed sanitation along the service chain, while recognising that faecal sludge is a resource, creating a shift to a circular economy.
46 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 SLUDGE
THE WISH LIST: HIGH-QUALITY WATER, LOW WASTE VOLUMES
Maximum output, minimum waste is a mantra for every manufacturing process. And nearly every manufacturing process uses water and has a waste stream in some form, which could include sludge.
Sludge is one of the main waste streams or byproducts generated from water purification, for both water for drinking and wastewater for environmental discharge. It is usually generated from domestic wastewater treatment works (WWTWs), domestic water treatment works (WTWs), and industrial wastewater treatment plants.
• WWTW – this sludge is a mixture of mostly organic content, microorganisms and a small amount of inorganic content.
• WTW – typically when treating surface water, there is a sedimentation or clarification step where chemicals (such as flocculants and coagulants) are used to bind all water impurities, creating a sludge that settles.
• Industrial processes that produce wastewater – this sludge will mostly comprise (depending on what is
manufactured) inorganic content like heavy metals and salts. Water treatment specialist Watericon believes that water balancing is a critical first step to optimising these processes with good outputs
and minimal sludge. This is done through its R&D team of chemists and engineers, its Sanas 17025 accredited laboratory, and its known technologies in the market. “The volume and quality of sludge produced depends on the water source (surface water, domestic wastewater, industrial wastewater). If the source is good, there will be fewer impurities and less sludge,” says Wing Fung, engineering manager, Watericon. He adds that companies want minimal waste, treatment with as few chemicals as possible, and water at the correct standard required for industrial processes, reuse, and discharge.
“After we have assessed a customer’s needs, raw materials, water sources, and processes, Watericon will present different design options for a customer, and inevitably choices must be made between cost, the amount of chemicals
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 47 SLUDGE
Wing Fung, engineering manager at Watericon
used, water quality, as well as volumes and quality of sludge.”
Sludge comprising particulates or components that are dangerous to the environment must be treated before disposal. The more hazardous the sludge, the more costly it is to treat that sludge. Conversely, if the sludge is not harmful, the company or institution may have a permit where it can be dumped back into a water source or used within the site for other applications.
According to Fung, dealing with liquid waste is often harder than dealing with solid waste. “Liquid waste is firstly difficult and expensive to move. Evaporation ponds (using sunlight) are often used for liquid waste; should that not be an option, evaporation processes can be a costly and energy intensive process. Compacted solid waste also uses less volume than liquid waste. Often, waste companies
charge per kilogram, and the higher the moisture content in sludge, the heavier the mass.”
Fortunately, technologies are available to reduce moisture from the sludge (dewatering) prior to disposal. Often in domestic wastewater treatment processes a drying bed is used where the sun evaporates the water, turning the sludge into a solid material. There are other treatment options to remove liquid from the solid, like filter presses, screw presses, filtration bags, and centrifuges. The treatment option will depend on the end use of the sludge, and its desired moisture content.
Domestic wastewater sludge is generally biodegradable and, in most cases, can be used in agriculture as a fertiliser or soil conditioner; phosphorus and nitrogen are often recovered. In certain applications, sludge (depending on its organic content) can be used for biogas generation. Industrial sludge can produce a salt or gypsum from softening-type processes and can be used in industrial applications such as concrete manufacturing. Sludge produced in the mining process often has high amounts of recoverable minerals like nickel and cobalt and there is a lot of research on the recovery of these minerals. “Today, companies and institutions have sustainability goals and want to ‘close the loop’. Water recovered from a plant is often reused, as well as sludge. Watericon is increasingly involved in projects with zero or minimal liquid discharge and zero waste. We often help companies comply with regulations and legislation, and can assist in redesigning an entire wastewater treatment process so that the output (sludge and wastewater) can comply with regulations,” concludes Fung.
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