Resolving SA’s water crisis: Be part of the solution

Installation of Clarus Fusion wastewater treatment plant

IT is often said that the next world war will be fought over water. The United Nations, scientists, and governments the world over have been trying to raise awareness over the increasing scarcity of this critical resource. “But what many misunderstand is that it is not the lack of water that will see wars waged – it is the lack of clean, quality water,” says Gerhard Cronje in an exclusive interview with CBN. Water can be a near-infinite resource if it is treated properly.

Cronje is the CEO of Maskam Water, a company which he started in the early 2000s in response to the demand for small scale wastewater treatment solutions. Having originally imported the systems, the company now proudly manufactures their flagship Clarus Fusion Wastewater Treatment Plant in the Western Cape and supplies it to the wider sub-Saharan African region.

Cronje expressed concerns over the deteriorating quality and increasing pollution of South Africa’s precious water resources. “Once a river or dam is severely contaminated, it becomes almost impossible to rehabilitate. It takes decades,” he says. Considering the current state of the Vaal River, as an example, this is a worrying truth indeed. The Vaal situation has been investigated by the SA Human Rights Commission, who have reported that “Gauteng’s most vital water resource may very well have been irreparably damaged”. While the Government has set aside R1.1 billion over the next three years for refurbishment of the wastewater treatment plants, urgent and more immediate action is needed.

Indeed, the state is responsible for the development, maintenance and sustainability of South Africa’s water infrastructure, but water is “everyone’s problem” comments Cronje. “We are polluting our own drinking water.” He says that the private sector can work to minimise the strain on existing infrastructure by investing in on-premises water treatment solutions. “We cannot continue to discharge liquid waste into a system which we well know isn’t functional. We are playing with people’s lives downstream; contaminated water poses a severe health risk,” says Cronje. Given South Africa’s growing population and increasing urbanisation, our water crisis is not going to be resolved without the action of every stakeholder.

A compact, energy-efficient and cost-effective wastewater treatment solution is within reach of South African businesses looking to play their part. The Clarus Fusion is easy to install, placed underground and out of sight. Once running, it requires just one hour of maintenance every 6 months and has a service life of 40 years. “The system means you save water as well as money, by treating and upcycling your wastewater. Used on an industrial site, we have seen an ROI of 6.5 years. For businesses which run on septic tanks, the ROI becomes even better, in some cases it is as low as 12 months, as you no longer need to pay for waste removal,” explains Cronje.

The solution was recently installed at the Department of Environmental Affairs offices in Cape Town CBD and has achieved water savings of 1 million litres a year. “It’s a drop in the ocean when you consider that the City of Cape Town uses about 650 million litres a day, but imagine the impact possible if more businesses adopted this kind of solution. Pressure could be taken off public infrastructure, giving government room to carry out much-needed upgrades and maintenance.”

“You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem.” This famous statement from Eldridge Cleaver rings true for this dire situation. South African businesses are encouraged to take action, help secure our water future, and further the sustainability of our national infrastructure

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