Posted on: April 8, 2009 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 0

South Africa. A revolutionary programme by Umgeni Water is being considered to avoid water shortages in Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

Sewage and other waste water will be recycled into quality drinking water. No decision has been made as yet, but consultants have been appointed by Umgeni Water to get the public’s opinion on the controversial programme.

There are two options that Umgeni Water is considering; The first option involves purifying domestic effluent at the Darvill waste-water treatment works near Sobantu in Pietermaritzburg.

The second option involves collecting from the heavily polluted Umgeni River and purifying it at Umlaas Road, near Camperdown.

The studies were first started in 2006, and this led to a focus group meeting late in 2008 to gauge public opinion.

There are several cities around the world exploring methods to purify and reuse waste water and Windhoek, Namibia’s capital, is currently the only city in Africa that purifies sewage effluent to drinking quality tap water.

According to a report by consultancy groups Knight Piesold and Phelemanaga Projects, there were concerns raised at the focus group meeting that the first option, which was purification of sewage effluent at Darvill, was at risk of public sabotage due to sensitivities relating to drinking purified sewage effluent.

The second option also involves indirect recycling of sewage effluent as the option relies on collecting water from the Umgeni River which is polluted by several industries and informal settlements in the
area, coupled with semi-treated water discharged from the Darvill water treatment plant.

One of the main issues raised by the focus group was cultural and religion-based objections to purified effluent.

Another issue of concern brought up was the safety of the drinking water as there was a possibility of certain municipalities failing to treat the water thoroughly.

Concern was also raised by the focus group on the work that needed to be done to establish the level of heavy metals and endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in the treated water from the Darvill plant.

The concern about EDCs stems from the amount of “gender-bending” natural or synthetic EDC hormones in human-polluted water and also have the potential to cause sexual deformities or altered sex ratios.

Finally, there was concern about the use of both methods as the amount of water in the Umgeni River would be reduced due to the collection of water for human consumption.

Some attendants of the first focus group meeting felt that alternative options, such as building new dams, desalinating sea water or harvesting rain water should be examined.

The report by Knight Piesold and Phelemanaga Projects showed that between 36 and 39 percent of water in Durban was going to waste due to leaking pipes and water theft.

R850 million is being spent by the eThekwini Municipality to replace about 2800km of old asbestos cement water pipes with PVC pipes in greater Durban before July 2010 to control water loss.

Source: The Mercury