the Drakensberg-Maloti Park, at the headwaters of the Mooi and uMngeni rivers. On route to Pietermaritzburg, the ‘journey’ goes past the Spring Grove, Midmar and Henley dams and through the communities of Mphophomeni and Edendale.
The ‘journey’ ends on Thursday, 14 May at the Natal Canoe Club in Pietermaritzburg, also the starting point for the Dusi Canoe Marathon which each year is bedevilled by water contamination issues. Here they will be welcomed by some of the local paddling community and have a chance to test their arms alongside Dusi champions.
The Journey of Water is a WWF South Africa campaign that highlights the threats to South Africa’s water security and showcases what ordinary South Africans are doing about it. It traverses the full range of South Africa’s pressing water issues, from catchment protection in water source areas – usually out of sight and out of mind – to the myriad of challenges present in informal settlements.
This year’s Journey of Water takes a literal journey through KwaZulu-Natal to meet experts, local landowners and communities as they follow the waterscapes that bring water to our dams and cities. The key message to South Africans is: Water does not come from a tap. In fact, it makes a long and complex journey. This campaign exposes the stories behind that journey.
Among the participants this year are rapper ProVerb, LeadSA’s Catherine Constantinides, vocalists Aya Mpama, Nomsa Mazwai and Louise Carver, and presenters Azania Mosaka and Vuyo Ngcukana.
South Africa’s water security depends on many of the people that this group will meet, those who live on the front-line trying to resolve issues, protect the living landscape and survive in places where water and sanitation is a daily challenge.
Research by WWF-SA and the CSIR shows that 8% of South Africa’s landscape provides half the country’s water supply but these water source areas are poorly protected and at risk from degradation and mining. This research has also identified 21 critical water source areas in need of protection. These are national assets that provide for a disproportionate amount of run-off for the rest of the country and are generally found in the high-altitude escarpment and Drakensberg mountains which receive the most rainfall.
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Given the threat of both an energy and water crisis, President Jacob Zuma has encouraged the private sector to “go green”, with government now looking to increase the energy efficiency incentives on offer. But how green do you have to go to be considered officially green, and how will this be measured and rated?
“Support for green initiatives was also stated in the budget speech, but I believe that businesses still find themselves in an uncertain position as to what it is they’re supposed to do,” says Brian Wilkinson, CEO of the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA).
Wilkinson adds: “The possibility of incentives for greater efficiency will certainly encourage more green buildings initiatives. But, there will need to be a clear measure of efficiencies for government to confidently and consistently award these incentives.
Businesses especially will now more than ever be looking for solutions to bring about reductions in operation and facilities management costs in light of, for example, Eskom’s recent announcement that they would be appealing for an additional 9,5% increase on electricity costs over and above the already approved 12%. Sustainable solutions are desperately sought.
“Green has become a new buzz word with many businesses and service providers claiming to be sustainable in their offering and operations. This focus on green building has demonstrated the need for a rigorous, standardised system that rates just how green projects are with tangible results to back up these claims. “
Fortunately, this system is already in place with the GBCSA’s Green Star SA rating tools.
“With these tools we can not only guarantee that businesses live up to their green building claims, but also assist with their endeavours to minimise their carbon footprint,” says Wilkinson. “With happier, healthier employees and existing of evidence significantly reduced operations and maintenance costs at greener buildings, the benefits of a Green Star SA rating are extensive.”
Building owners looking to achieve a Green Star SA rating can, together with their green building consultant, submit the necessary documentation to the GBCSA. “Independent assessors are employed to evaluate submissions and allocate points based on the green measures that have been implemented. Certification is awarded for 4-Star, 5-Star or 6-Star Green Star SA ratings,” Wilkinson explains.
Office, retail, multi-unit residential, public and education buildings, as well as existing commercial buildings are all catered for with rating tools designed specifically for the various projects. The GBCSA has also recently introduced a Green Star SA Interiors tool which focuses primarily on efficient maintenance and operations of interior fit-outs and caters for a broad range of tenancies, including office, retail and hospitality projects.
“With this tool the tenants have all the power, allowing each tenancy to have their own unique environmental design initiatives fairly and independently benchmarked. It rewards healthy, productive places to work which are less costly to operate and maintain and have a reduced environmental footprint,” he says.
For existing buildings, the Green Star SA – Existing Building Performance (EBP) tool covers the same environmental categories addressed in the Green Star SA new building tools but also places focus on the efficient operations and management of the building. This rating is only valid for a period of three years, to ensure the building is continually well operated and maintained and energy and water monitoring, management policies and plans are all required.
Wilkinson advises the most effective and simple starting point to check the performance of your building is the GBCSA’s Energy Water Performance (EWP) mini-tool. This tool benchmarks an office building’s energy and water consumption against an industry mean. So, if your asset compares poorly, you can be sure that investing in its electricity and water efficiency will bring worthwhile benefits to the building’s bottom line, attractiveness, and sustainability, and the environment too. While the EWP mini-tool makes up 40% of the EBP, it is also available as a separate certification.
“Green Star SA rating tools are comparable to those of other green building councils around the world, making them a reliable benchmark, not only across South Africa, but internationally too,” he says.
Source: African Environment
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By Andreas Wilson-Späth
Supplying South Africa’s growing population with clean, safe drinking water is a major challenge. Not only is the country’s water infrastructure in need of refurbishment in some places and entirely absent in many others, but access to sufficiently large quantities of potable water is increasingly becoming a problem.
This is not only a South African problem, of course. With population and industrial growth, poor watershed management, the widespread pollution and deterioration of rivers and other freshwater ecosystems, and with the impacts of climate change becoming more apparent every year, the world is facing a water crisis of potentially devastating proportions. By 2025, the UN estimates, some two-thirds of the planet’s population could be experiencing water stress conditions, especially those living in the dryer parts of the developing world.
You might have wondered why we haven’t used desalination of seawater to help us resolve our water supply problems. After all, much of South Africa is literally surrounded by oceans of the stuff. In addition, there is plenty of brackish groundwater in inland areas that could be converted into fresh water useable in agriculture, industry and for domestic use.
The basic technology is ancient. Humans have distilled salty water into potable water for centuries. So why not now?
Large-scale desalination plants are, in fact, increasingly being used worldwide. Thousands of them are in operation – the greatest number in the Middle East, from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait to Oman and Qatar. Most of Israel’s water already comes from such installations. The USA is home to about 300 of them and California, a state in the grip of the worst drought in history, is investing billions in the technology.
Several South African municipalities are considering desalination as part of their future water supply plans and government has suggested that in 15 years’ time as much as 10% of the country’s total urban water supply might be provided in this way.
The largest local desalination plant was opened in Mossel Bay in 2011 and mostly services PetroSA’s synthetic fuel operation there.
So what’s the problem? Although the technology has been improving steadily, there are several hitches. Most importantly it takes a lot of energy to convert salty water into fresh water.
In conventional high-pressure reverse osmosis systems, a large amount of electricity is needed to push saline water through a series of progressively finer membranes to remove salt and other chemicals. Using a more traditional distillation process, lots of electricity is used to heat water to its boiling point.
This massive energy requirement means that desalination plants tend to have large carbon footprints and contribute significantly to climate change – and thus to even worse water problems. Until now, large-scale desalination has only been a viable option for rich countries or those with plenty of fossil fuel to burn.
A secondary environmental problem results from the fact that for every litre of fresh water produced, about two litres of raw salty water needs to be processed, leaving behind significant quantities of toxic brine which can contain a variety of pollutants and represents a considerable threat to coastal ecosystem if it’s carelessly discarded into the ocean.
In a number of countries, including the Unites Arab Emirates, the USA and Australia, progress is being made in using renewable energy sources, principally the power of sunlight, to drive the desalination process. While this might be a low carbon alternative to conventional methods, the technology is still at an early stage of development and can’t be relied upon to solve our water problems at this point in time.
For now, the answer must lie in conserving existing freshwater sources. We can go a long way in countering the growing crisis by putting effort into water conservation strategies, using our precious freshwater more efficiently, with less waste, reusing water wherever possible, capturing stormwater that would otherwise just run into the sea and recycling used water whenever that is an option.
Ultimately, what’s required is a change in attitude from all of us. We need to change the way we look at water. We need to stop taking it for granted and treat it as a precious resource that needs to be treasured instead of wasted.
I’m part of a new non profit organisation called The Watershed Project. Our aim is to raise public awareness about water in all its aspects. Visit our website for more information, follow us on Twitter (@WatershedSA) and in March, join us for a festival of exciting water related activities from fun walks to outdoor film screenings (only in Cape Town for this year, but expanding to other parts of the country from 2016).
Source: News 24
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Eskom’s electricity woes have hastened the failure of water infrastructure around the country.
For many South Africans, the water crisis is already here. For others, research and projections show, it is only a matter of time – and perhaps not a great deal of time.
Thanks to load-shedding, and a shortage of water when electricity is restricted, the thirsty future could arrive in major urban centres as soon as this summer.
Early last year, four people died in violent protests over a lack of water in the Mothotlung township outside Brits in North West. In the glare of national publicity, water was quickly restored.
But on Monday, almost exactly a year later, taps in the township again ran dry. When the water flowed again on Tuesday, it was brown.
“I am scared to drink water from the tap. I only use it for bathing and washing clothes. I do buy water from the tuck shop when I have money,” said 72-year-old widow Johana Ngwato.
“My daughter is six years old and, whenever she takes the water, she experiences diarrhoea,” said Ngwato’s niece, Baile Masango.
In 2013, a two-week water outage in Grahamstown saw academics, in their formal caps and gowns, march in lockstep on the city council offices, with township residents following, brandishing placards.
Rhodes University, the lifeblood of the town, issued a stark warning that garnered national attention: without water it would have to close its doors.
On Monday night, the water supply went off again without warning in a section of the township overlooking Grahamstown, leaving Tembinkosi Mhlakaza to wonder at what point he should go to fetch water for his grandmother, and how far he would have to go to get it.
“She’s nearly 80,” Mhlakaza said. “Our water went out last night, and it may come on this afternoon. But if it doesn’t, I have to make a plan for her.”
In 2014, the residents of Thlolong outside Kestell in the Free State were promised that a new dam would solve their water woes. On Wednesday, a resident, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisal, said neither the dam nor emergency water supplies were anywhere to be seen.
“We are thirsty. It has been eight years now that we live like this. The tankers that the municipality use to bring us water are not here this week; we didn’t see them last week. We don’t know what we must do now.”
In Johannesburg, some suburbs were warned this week to expect weekend water outages because of scheduled maintenance at a pumping station – the same station that left some of the same suburbs, and some hospitals, without water for days last year. The maintenance plan was later postponed.
These are no longer isolated cases. According to government officials, about a third of all towns are in some form of serious water distress. The department of water considers one in 10 municipal water systems to be totally dysfunctional, and, of those that are working, a quarter experiences regular service disruptions of more than two days at a time.
In provinces such as Mpumalanga, there are more households that have regular water interruptions than those with a steady supply.
In Mothotlung and Grahamstown, the water supply issues can be linked directly to municipal incompetence, a lack of engineering skills and the failure of management. Neither area has a shortage of untreated water, but they are going thirsty because of a lack of maintenance and proper financial administration and planning.
These problems show no signs of abating, as bitter experience shows.
“If you give me the money and people, I can fix it up for good,” said a Grahamstown city engineer, who is not authorised to speak to the media. “Without money and people, I’ll keep it running as long as I can. Just don’t ask me to fix it quickly when it really all breaks down; then you can keep your money.”
In Johannesburg, water shortages in 2014 were caused by electricity failure to a key pumping station, which in turn was linked to cable theft.
With Eskom warning that there will be regular load-shedding for the rest of the summer, and unable to deliver consistent power for several more years, water engineers are trying to work out how to manage shortages.
Meagre reserve margins
In many areas, water systems have either little or very meagre reserve margins. Electricity outages at pumps that move raw water could leave treatment stations without water. And, without treated water to move, pumps responsible for distribution would be idle when they do get electricity.
These two factors – local incompetence and a national electricity shortage – will have the biggest impact on what, if anything, comes out of the taps for the next several years.
But, within the next decade, two other fundamental issues are likely to make themselves felt – problems that no amount of local governing excellence or electricity will solve.
For one, there is simply not enough water left to go around.
“The situation currently in South Africa is that we have 98% of the water in the country being considered fully allocated. This means that my child and your child that is being born tomorrow has 2% of water for use going into the future,” then water minister Edna Molewa said of water usage rights in 2013.
Eskom has a 99.5% assurance of receiving water, meaning the power utility gets water before any other sector of the economy.
The 2030 Water Resources Group, of which the department is a member, has calculated that, by 2030, the demand for water will exceed supply by 17%. In most of South Africa’s catchments, demand is already outstripping supply, and it is only by piping water from places such as Lesotho that there is enough for now.
Climate change projections are that, by mid-century, reduced rainfall could lower the amount of available water by 10%. Rainfall is expected to come in shorter, but more violent, spells. The projections say this will make collection in dams and underground difficult.
Exactly how much water is available is a complex calculation, with many variables and estimates to consider, and it is seasonal, to boot.
In lay terms, the easy water is already being harvested. Major South African rivers have been dammed to maximum capacity – there are nearly 4400 registered dams – and some would argue beyond their capacity; river systems require what is sometimes referred to as an “ecological reserve”, a minimum amount of water to continue functioning and be useful.
Barriers to supply
Water systems that could handle new dams are both far from population centres and limited in their ability to supply water.
“Many parts of the country have either reached or are fast approaching the point at which all of the financially viable freshwater resources are fully utilised and where building new dams will not address the challenges,” the department of water affairs said in its 2013 strategy report.
That leaves South Africa more dependent than ever on water pumped from Lesotho, where a new phase of the Highlands water scheme will come on line in 2020.
But all the run-off from Lesotho must inevitably flow through South Africa to the ocean, making even that water-rich country a finite resource for South Africans.
An increase in global temperatures is expected to increase evaporation from dams, which potentially makes building more an exercise in running on the spot rather than getting ahead.
More groundwater can be exploited, but only by so much. Desalination is possible, but it requires large amounts of electricity and is very expensive.
Little to go around
That all leaves little untreated water to go around, even without the expected increases in municipal use, because of a growing population, agricultural use, which is increasing the amount of land under irrigation and is a mainstay of plans to improve both employment and food security, and industrial use.
“Increases in water supply cannot match the expected increase in demand without additional and far-reaching interventions,” Steve Hedden and Jakkie Cilliers, of the Institute for Security Studies, wrote in a September 2014 paper. “The water crisis cannot be solved through engineering alone.”
The second structural problem is an unfolding ecological disaster, which is making available water more difficult to treat and, eventually and without intervention, will make direct use of untreated water impossible.
“Water ecosystems are not in a healthy state,” according to the department of water affairs’ National Water Resource Strategy 2013. “Of the 233 river ecosystem types, 60% are threatened, with 25% of these critically endangered … Of 792 wetland ecosystems, 65% have been identified as threatened, and 48% as critically endangered.”
The sources of pollution in fresh water include industrial run-off and acid mine drainage, but human waste is a larger and more immediately dangerous component, ironically because of the large amount of water South Africans use.
“Most waste water treatment facilities are under stress because so much more waste water needs to be treated,” said Gunnar Sigge, head of Stellenbosch University’s department of food science and one of those involved in a seminal – and alarming – 2012 study for the Water Research Commission.
“Some of the biggest problems [in the water system] are caused by treatment works that aren’t functioning.”
Jo Barnes, a specialist in community health risks at Stellenbosch, said a chronic lack of investment in treatment plants meant conditions that should not exist, such as diarrhoea, were killing people.
“The whole environment where people live is contaminated. This is a massive, massive problem, but one that people will not talk about. There are just a few angry people trying to raise awareness.”
The 2012 study, carried out in all the provinces and over a three-to-four year period, found that the amount of faecal matter in many water systems made it unsafe for irrigation, because eating raw produce watered with it could cause illness.
Informal settlements both contribute to the pollution and are affected by it, and some draw directly on groundwater. According to the department of human settlements, the number of informal settlements rose from 300 in 1994 to about 2 700 today, housing 1.3-million families.
In Mothotlung, Serube Lukhelo is afraid to give her one-year-old baby water that could cause diarrhoea, so she spends what money she has on bottled water.
In Grahamstown’s Joza location, Nomfundo Bentele is considering putting up a sign at her hair salon to let customers know whether she has water or not.
In Johannesburg residents and hospitals wait to hear when water from their taps will stop running.
Everywhere else the clock is ticking.
Source: Mail & Guardian
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Where some nations wrestle and struggle with ecology versus energy demands in form of coal and oil, Africa has to consider something more fundamental: the need for water to survive! It has been said that water is second only to air in importance for life.
We can survive many days or even weeks without food, but we can only survive a few days without water. According to water.org, about 750 million people, that is about one in nine, lack access to clean water.
More than twice that many, about 2.5 billion people, do not have access to a toilet. This grim picture demonstrates the urgent need of having access to clean water. It has been predicted by water.org that population levels will rise by around 2.7 billion, close to a 40% increase, by 2050.
If this happens, extreme pressure will be placed on our precious and already hard-pressed freshwater resources in our surroundings. A report issued in November 2009 by the UN suggests that by 2030, in some developing countries water demand will exceed supply by 50%.
According to the UN, already more than two and a half billion people in the world live in the most abysmal standards of hygiene and sanitation. Helping them would do more than reduce the death toll; it would serve to protect the environment, alleviate poverty and promote development. That is because water underpins so much of the work we do in these areas.
In fact, the need for innovations in water conservation has never been greater. According to the World Water Council, although the world’s population tripled in the 20th century, the use of renewable water resources grew six-times. The increased industrialisation and the added demand for water will have somber consequences on water supply in future.
There should be increased awareness that freshwater resources need protection and sensitize companies, individuals and communities to seek innovative solutions in water conservation.
Rwanda uses less than 2% of its available fresh water resources; there is scope for increased use of the resource in the economic and social transformation. In planned developments in energy, agriculture, infrastructure, industry and domestic supply, indicate that water demand will increase in the next 5 – 10 years.
The high population growth is expected in the developing regions of the world where already clean water is often incredibly hard to come by. The problems associated with water supply are not just about quantity.
A growing number of contaminants such as heavy metals, distillates and micro pollutant are entering our water resources, supplies , making conservation more challenging. Figures on access to water and sanitation in many developing countries vary depending on the source of information . The fact that many rural water systems are not functioning properly makes it even more difficult to estimate effective access to improved water supply.
Water is very essential to survival. Unlike oil, there are no substitutes. But today, fresh water resources are stretched thin. Population growth will make the problem worse. The global economy grows concurrently with its thirst that needs to be quenched.
Most of the health and development challenges faced by the poorest of the world’s population-diseases like malaria or Tuberculosis , rising food prices, environmental degradation-the common denominator often turns out to be water.
International World water day is almost here with us, March 22nd and this year provides an important opportunity to consolidate and build on the previous World Water Days to highlight water’s role in the sustainable development agenda.
Just like the many nations on earth and Rwanda as always joins the rest of the world in marking the importance of this vital resource, there is utmost need to create awareness of its recycling and as its conservation.
The water resources in Rwanda face growing challenges arising from pressures of rapidly changing demographic patterns, the demands of intensified socio-economic development, degradation from unsustainable and inappropriate land use practices; and the uncertainties created by climate change, among others.
Millennium Development Goals has set a target of cutting by half the number of people without access to safe water by 2015. Water Resources Master Plan derived from the Rwanda National Policy for Water Resources Management that was approved by the Cabinet in February 2012 has one of its objectives to provide an equitable allocation framework for water resources recognizing water as a finite resource.
The challenge we face now is how to effectively conserve, manage, and distribute the water we have. National efforts encourage us to explore the local and global trends defining the world’s water crisis.
As it is often argued, whenever there is less land available, and less water to make that land productive, competition for that land can turn violent.
Strangely enough, as Claudia Ringler, a research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington observes, “On a per capita basis, water availability is not that bad in Africa. In Ethiopia and Somalia, the water is there, but it is not getting to where it needs to be.”
Source: All Africa
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South Africa’s water authorities have urged the population to respect the laws regulating water and use water sparingly, even during this festive holiday season, APA learns here Friday.
Last month the ministry of water embarked on raids in certain areas of the country to compel entities across all sectors that are abstracting water illegally from the rivers and other water resources to stop their activities or face the might of the law.
In terms of the National Water Act of 1998, all water users in South Africa, whether for commercial or domestic use must be registered through their municipalities and industries and must be issued with water use licences.
The National Water Act forms part of the pillars of South Africa’s laws as it seeks to enforce good management of water and its conservation.
South Africa is among the 30 driest countries in the world and the country also runs the risk of becoming a desert in 20 years if water is not managed and used sparingly, the water authorities said.
“It is unacceptable that some individuals and industries use the country’s scarce resource for personal benefit without applying for water use licenses.”
“An increase in unlawful water use activities, with a negative impact on the environment as well as socio-economic factors, called for a need to bring about public awareness regarding compliance” the ministry said.
Source: Star Africa
Durban – South Africans use 235 litres of water each a day compared to the international average of 173 litres – which is pushing the country into a water crisis that will, within a decade, rival the electricity catastrophe.
This is coupled with ageing infrastructure and a backlog of water delivery to communities because not enough money is being pumped into infrastructure.
This is the picture painted by the Institute of Security Studies in a report called “Parched Prospects: The emerging water crisis in South Africa” which was released last year.
The ISS focuses on all aspects of human security including poverty, development and resources.
The report said high use, coupled with waste, poor planning, abuse, and looming climate change, was creating the predicament.
In an interview Dr Jakkie Cilliers, a co-author of the report, told The Mercury that 60% of the 223 river ecosystems were threatened and 25% were critical.
“If we don’t start dealing with the water problem, we are going to get into a situation where the margins are going to get really tight and water restrictions will be severe.”
Cilliers said water management needed to be made a priority as there was insufficient capacity to build enough dams.
“Low and unpredictable supply coupled with high (and growing) demand and poor use of existing water resources make South Africa a water constrained country.”
With evaporation levels that are three times more that the low annual rainfall, South Africa is already the 30th driest country in the world.
He was doubtful about the policy interventions proposed in the latest National Water Resource Strategy. These included improving planning and management and increasing supply to meet growing demand.
“Unfortunately the government’s current plans to address our water inefficiency are not sufficient. There’s strong evidence of years of underinvestment in water infrastructure. As a result there is a backlog of communities who don’t have access to clean water coupled with the issue of ageing infrastructure,” said Cilliers.
Environmentalist Di Jones said the target for all South Africans to have access to clean water by 2030 would only be realised if water management was made a priority.
“I’m not against desalination and building of new dams, but I think we should first look at less costly measures to stretch the litres that we already have, and consumers must start saving water in their homes.”
Jones said upgrading the ageing infrastructure had to be a priority as it crippled the economy with millions of litres lost through leaks.
“Our dams need to be desludged to maximise capacity… Hazelmere Dam is said to be 37% full, but that’s not true because about 15% is sludge,” said Jones.
She suggested that industries and agriculture start using grey water instead of potable water.
A decline in demand is expected after 2035, but only in industry, thanks to the onset of renewable energy production which does not require water for cooling.
The municipal and agricultural sectors would increase demand because of rural-urban migration and the government’s plan to increase irrigated land by 33%.
To mitigate the strain on water systems, Umgeni Water has budgeted R5 billion for the next five years for six augmentation projects including raising Hazelmere Dam’s wall.
Also under construction is the R2bn Lower Thukela Bulk Water Supply Scheme.
“We are also looking into desalination, and feasibility studies have been conducted for two sites, in Lovu and Seatides (Tongaat),” said Umgeni’s Shami Harichunder.
Cilliers said desalination was costly at first and probably less viable because of the energy crisis. However, it would be beneficial to coastal areas and less expensive with new technology in renewable energy in the future.
Angela Masefield of the Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation conceded that some river systems were under strain.
“We are constantly monitoring demand to ensure that we can give citizens, industries and agriculture assurances that they will have water in the future.”
Besides climate change, Masefield’s other concern was the high level of non-revenue water lost through leaks, waste and theft.
In 2013 the WRC released a report on a study, conducted on 132 municipalities, which said about 36.8% of water use brought in no revenue. Of this, 25.4% was lost to leaks. This was similar to the estimated world average of 36.6% but was high in comparison to other developing countries.
“We sometimes find that even those who can afford to pay for water choose not to pay and then there are those who are ‘luxurious’ with water, resulting in the household usage being higher than it should be. This, coupled with illegal connections, results in the system being unstable,” said Masefield.
Source: IOL News
From growing glaciers to making rain with lasers, what are the innovative technologies that could help us tackle the global water crisis?
It’s estimated that we use 9tn cubic metres of water every year. As the global population grows, it is becoming an increasingly precious resource, with millions forced to walk for more than a mile to collect their daily supply. We investigate the innovative technologies that will help tackle our water crisis in future.
1. Growing glaciers
More than half of the world’s fresh water is stored in glaciers, 15 times more than all of the world’s lakes, rivers and wetlands combined. As a result of climate change, almost every glacier studied by the World Glacier Monitoring Service has been found to be shrinking and meltwater is simply lost to the rivers and sea.
In her book Adventures in the Anthropocene, Gaia Vince tells the story of Indian geo-engineer Chewang Norphel, who lives in Ladakh on the edge of the Himalayas and who has sought to counter the problem by growing glaciers. Norphel diverts meltwater onto little plateaux where it freezes. He has created 10 artificial glaciers this way, which can be used for water in the dry summer months.
2. A bath without water
At the age of 17, Ludwick Marishane was sunbathing in Limpopo, South Africa’s northernmost province. His friend said idly to him: “Man, why doesn’t somebody invent something that you can just put on your skin and you don’t have to bath.”Marishane did exactly that. He researched on his Nokia 6234 mobile phone, eventually formulating a lotion called DryBath. Marishane says that DryBath – a blend of essential oils, bioflavonoids, and odour-eliminating chemical tawas –saves four litres of water ever session, a total of a million litres in total.
3. Ultra water efficient shower
We are all familiar with the moment. You get into the shower, turn the tap, then avoid the water until the temperature equalises. For Peter Cullin, from Adelaide, this is a problem. “Every minute of every day, in millions of homes around the world quality fresh drinking water is lost to the drain from inefficient showers.” To solve the dilemma, Cullin has created his “Cullector Ultra Efficient Shower”, a screw-in device that captures water at the beginning of a shower and feeds it back into the system. If installed in 1,000 showers, Cullin says the device would save 200m litres of water a year. A similar system has been invented by Richard Ogodeton from Brighton.
4. The lifesaver bottle
“Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink”, wrote Samuel Taylor Coleridge famously in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. This paradox struck Michael Pritchard while watching news reports of the Boxing Day tsunami a decade ago. Clean water was being brought in on trucks as the floodwater was too dirty. To solve this problem, he invented his “lifesaver” bottle, which uses a pump to force water through a 15-nanometre filter, cleansing it of all bacteria and viruses. Since its launch, the Lifesaver Bottle has been used by hikers, aid companies and the British army in Afghanistan.
5. Rainmaking with lasers
In the 1840s, James P Espy thought burning large fires in the American west would bring rain to the east. In the 1950s, there were attempts at cloud seeding. Now, the idea of rainmaking has returned to the scientific agenda. The idea this time is to fire lasers into the atmosphere. Properly-directed pulses of light have been shown to help ice sublime and vapour condense. The World Meteorological Organisation recently debated the future use of this new technology. One of the possibilities is to use lasers to induce rain at times of drought.
6. The fold up toilet
Along with the shower, the toilet is one of the home’s greatest source of water waste. As much as seven litres can vanish in a single flush and, wanting to improve matters, two students from the University of Huddersfield have inventedIota, the folding toilet. Iota’s design is markedly different to the traditional toilet and, as such, makes more efficient use of water. Gareth Humphreys and Elliott Whiteley, Iota’s inventors, claim that if installed it could save 10,000 litres per person every year.
7. Leak monitoring
Despite all the water wasted inside the home – dripping taps, inefficient toilets and showers – utility companies acknowledge that as much as a third is lost to leaks before it even arrives. Tackling this problem is Zonescan Alpha, a software that pinpoints leaks and relays data back to a control centre. It works by embedding sensors throughout a network and has been successfully trialled by Albstadtwerke, a German utility company, which says it helped reduce waste by 2m litres.
8. Solar powered water purification
Hot climates suffer the most from a lack of water, making the invention of 16-year-old American, Deepika Kurup, all the more intriguing. Hailed as one of the USA’s brightest young scientists, this year Kurup was awarded the US Stockholm Junior Water Prize for her ingenious solar-chemical purification process. This involves exposing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to ultra violet radiation from the sun to produce a photo catalytic composite that cleans water. “This technology is green, safe, cost effective and easily deployable,” said Kurup.
Source: The Guardian