Technology used to extract water from the Earth’s atmosphere, otherwise known as atmospheric water generating (AWG), may be a solution that can be easily scaled to mitigate current and future water scarcity issues in South Africa and globally, Sustainable Operations Group (SOG) Water Solutions co-founder and manufacturing and operations director Keenan Lawrence said this week.
He spoke during a webinar hosted by Cape Town-based business hub Nordic House on September 16 on the topic of “A Sustainable Tomorrow: Regenerative Business”.
Citing the 2015 to 2017 drought that affected the Western Cape, and the current water scarcity issues in the Eastern Cape, Lawrence said a lasting, efficient and cost effective solution was needed to supply potable water to people in a challenging environment.
South Africa’s water-scarce nature, coupled with rapid urbanisation, has made the issue of water availability ever more pressing, he stated.
In this regard, Lawrence noted that, although the SOG atmospheric water harvesting technology is classified as an alternative to conventional water sourcing methods, it is sustainable.
The company’s AWG solutions are containerised and are able to produce between 100 ℓ a day and 1 000 ℓ a day of potable water. The units can also be combined to produce a greater supply of water.
“We have already submitted proposals to organisations from between 10 000 ℓ a day to 50 000 ℓ a day,” he said.
In addition, similar to power purchase agreements in the energy sector, Lawrence said water purchase agreements (WPAs) should be developed using AWG solutions to bolster water security in especially vulnerable areas.
“. . . WPAs – that is where we see, not only the scalability based on the feasibility, but also the long-term impact opportunity of doing work with government and municipalities in water-stressed areas, particularly the Eastern Cape currently,” he said.
In terms of traction for SOG’s AWG solutions, Lawrence said the company had to date received numerous letters of intent, not only from local companies, but also internationally, from the US and in the Southern African Development Community region.
“We were fortunate enough to, in the beginning of the year, start our first export manufacture for eSwatini and we have done some work and got some tenders, awarded by Cape-based nature reserves,” he added.
One positive of using AWG technology in a nature reserve, many of which are a fair distance from suburban areas, is that commissioning the products in such an environment usually requires the training and upskilling of the customer's technicians to service and maintain the units, as they can sometimes be difficult to access by SOG technicians.
In this instance, SOG technicians will visit and service the units on a less-frequent basis, as opposed to units more easily accessible, but this provides direct and indirect job opportunities to rural communities and also serves to upskill rural individuals with unique skills, he noted.
Meanwhile, another positive aspect of using AWG technology in the hospitality industry is the fact that the solution will have a fast return on investment, in some instances, six or even four months, said Lawrence.