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Comparative Analysis Of Wastewater Treatment Regimes In South Africa

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Phillipa Kanyoka (Bonn, Germany), Djiby Thiam
Centre for development research1

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 1: Water supply and demand,
AbstractUntreated wastewater is a major threat to fresh water ecosystems in South Africa and in developing countries at large. Despite efforts by the South African government to promote water treatment across the nation, most municipalities are still marginally investing in wastewater treatment efforts due to the high operating and maintenance costs of the treatment plants, the lack of capacity to maintain such plants and the lack of a regulatory framework that guides and organizes the wastewater treatment strategies. . Yet wastewater treatment is one of the most promising strategies to address the related problems of water scarcity, declining water quality and ecological integrity of fresh water ecosystems that South Africa is currently facing. Wastewater reuse is in line with the integrated water resources management approach which is enunciated in the South African National Water Act of 1998 and sets out a framework for managing water scarcity as well as reducing negative environmental pollution and increases allocations for environmental flows. Studies in other countries where wastewater treatment and re-use is being done have shown that the strategy can potentially yield positive economic benefits through savings on treatment costs and enhanced water availability. However, provision of wastewater is not without risks and therefore, more thorough analysis of the economic, social and environmental impacts of wastewater treatment and reuse is needed to generate insights that can potentially inform decisions on wastewater treatment and reuse. These insights allow for better management and use of water for different end-users (agriculture, industry and households). The objective of this paper is twofold. First, it assesses the economic implications of water pollution. This assessment covers water use in agriculture, households and mining industry. Second, our study identifies and compares various wastewater treatment regimes. We do so in providing the costs and benefits of alternative wastewater treatment strategies while integrating the economic, environmental and health dimensions of water pollution. This study is applied to one of the most water stressed catchment in the country: the Olifants river basin. The additional advantage of this study is it provides guiding principles that facilitate the implementation of such wastewater treatment strategies. These principles may be useful to South Africa, but also to many developing countries experiencing the same water pollution problems.
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