When industry runs on wastewater

Posted on 05 January 2016.

In Durban, Veolia recycles wastewater to provide an alternative resource for industry and promote access to water for disadvantaged people.

In South Africa, water is a scarce resource. This is especially the case in the city of Durban, located in the municipality of eThekwini, bordering the Indian Ocean. Nearly 3.5 million people live in eThekwini, now the country’s second most populous urban area and the second largest industrial center after Johannesburg. But industry needs water. Lots of water! And supplying it sometimes comes at the expense of people.

Recycling wastewater is a particularly interesting solution to the problem of water scarcity. Recycling makes it possible to both optimize the use of water resources and better protect the ocean and rivers by reducing the volume of polluted waste discharged.

Which is why, in South Africa’s very first public-private partnership, eThekwini municipality entrusted Veolia Water Technologies South Africa with a 20 year contract for building and operating a wastewater recycling plant. Today, the Southern Wastewater Treatment Works (SWTW) plant recovers the domestic and industrial wastewater from the city of Durban. In the plant, 98% of the wastewater is treated for reuse. The installation is able to supply several of the city’s industries – for example Mondi Paper and SAPREF - with recycled water that is 60% less expensive than traditional sources of supply and of sufficient quality to ensure the functioning of manufacturing processes.

Recycling its wastewater has enabled the eThekwini municipality to free up a significant amount of water previously used in industry and use it to supply disadvantaged urban and peri-urban communities. An additional 47,000 m3 of drinking water is therefore available to the people of Durban every day, the equivalent of 15 Olympic swimming pools! The environmental benefits are also substantial because the plant significantly reduces the volume of waste pumped into the Indian Ocean.

In addition to its economic and environmental advantages for the area of eThekwini, the contract includes a major social component. A percentage of the profits from the operation are plowed into a fund whose objective is to promote access to water for disadvantaged people. In addition, Veolia meets high commitments in relation to jobs and skills transfer. A win-win-win partnership for the community, industry and residents alike!