Owing to water currently being a critical global commodity, engineering company Royal HaskoningDHV business development manager Sander Zweers says a societal mindset change regarding the importance of water, as well as its treatment, purification and desalination, is needed.
“The global water crisis goes beyond not being able to drink water and is considered not only an environmental risk but also a social risk, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). “In fact, the WEF considers a water crisis one of the three highest risks to mankind in terms of impact, for the past three years in a row,” he adds, noting that a lack of water can lead to social unrest, anarchy or even wars.
Therefore, providing clean water for cities, towns and rural communities amid rapid urbanisation in developing countries is a major challenge for government institutions.
Zweers points out that, owing to economic differences or poor infrastructure, millions of people globally still suffer from diseases associated with inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene.
“The protection of our water resources requires that water returned to the environment is adequately treated to remove nutrients, bacteria and other pollutants. “Water reuse is becoming an imperative for industries and cities, requiring an even higher standard of effluent from the wastewater treatment plants.”
Owing to the importance of the water industry, he explains that the 2017 Netherlands Trade Mission – held from November 26 to 30 in Cape Town – focused on water and water technology. Parallel to this, he adds that the eThekwini municipality, in KwaZulu-Natal – in partnership with the Dutch Embassy – developed the CoCreate MYCITY event.
Royal HaskoningDHV participated in the high-level delegation Trade Mission, which was led by Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy director-general foreign economic relations Guido Landheer.
The trade mission aims to explore and cocreate sustainable and smart solutions for urban challenges, which includes water security and drought solutions.
Another aim of the trade mission is to provide a platform for collaboration and leverage international expertise for local solutions in order to provide a holistic approach for the current water challenges facing South Africa, Zweers explains.
This, Royal HaskoningDHV KwaZulu-Natal water director Bonga Ntuli explains, is accomplished through partnerships with companies from the Netherlands who can provide expertise, alongside international knowledge, to make a difference through a combination of proven international technologies.
“Only when there is no potable water will the country realise the importance and impact of it.”
Some of these technologies, Zweers adds, include wastewater treatment solutions, water reuse technology, reservoir management and a range of Aquasuite products.
In addition to collaboration, Zweers further enthuses that the exploration of water treatment, purification and desalination technology needs to happen so that technologies can be developed to suit and benefit local scenarios.
However, he notes that there is difficulty in informing South Africa of the available technologies and solutions, owing to the difficulty of finding the appropriate technologies and, subsequently, bridging the awareness gap.
“I think it’s key to bring these smart innovations and smart solutions into the South African environment and, for that purpose, to be exposed to these kinds of technologies is quite important.”
Subsequently, Zweers concludes South Africa’s unique requirements and local expertise can provide valuable input to global companies for further product enhancement, thereby making South Africa an integral part of the global water technology ecosystem.