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The Wilderness Society

Prince of Denmark helps save South Africa’s water

From 2 to 4 November the Royal Crown Prince of Denmark travelled to South Africa as part of a continued collaboration with the South African water and renewable energy sectors. This included the culmination and celebration of investment into South Africa’s water sector in collaboration with environmental organisation, WWF South Africa.

Crown Prince of Denmark at Drakenstein Municipality water treatment plant ©Sue Northam-Ras

Crown Prince of Denmark at Drakenstein Municipality water treatment plant ©Sue Northam-Ras

WWF-SA and the Royal Danish Embassy selected several pilot projects to demonstrate technology and skills development in water management in South Africa during 2014 and 2015. The initial results have been presented in a new WWF-SA report titled Innovations in the SA water sector: Danish investment into water management in South Africa.

These recent Danish-South African partnerships in the water sector were the result of a call for South African-Danish partners to submit proposals to collaborate on developing innovative pilot projects to be tested in the South African context.

Paulina Malatji filling up a bucket from a communal tap next to her home in Lerupurupung ©Heather Dugmore

Paulina Malatji filling up a bucket from a communal tap next to her home in Lerupurupung ©Heather Dugmore

This followed a learning exchange visit to Denmark in 2013 by more than 20 representatives from South African water institutions and local government, including Department of Water and Sanitation and South African Local Government Association, as well WWF-SA.

Since 1994, the Danish government has invested significantly in the implementation of integrated water resource management in support of the South African National Water Act (1998) and the development of South Africa’s water sector.

Process controller Marcel Cornelissen at Drakenstein Wastewater Treatment Works ©Kobus Tollig

Process controller Marcel Cornelissen at Drakenstein Wastewater Treatment Works ©Kobus Tollig

The local issues addressed through the recent pilot projects included those at a national, municipal, landscape and farm-based level.

At a municipal level, where 37% water loss occurs in most South African municipalities, one project tackled water leakages in a rural area in Limpopo province through the use of simple water meters. In the Western Cape’s Drakenstein Municipality the focus was on improving both water and energy efficiency in wastewater treatment.

The Drakenstein Wastewater Treatment Works in Paarl ©Kobus Tollig

The Drakenstein Wastewater Treatment Works in Paarl ©Kobus Tollig

Farm-based innovations included enhancing downstream river irrigation efficiency and taking a proactive approach to water stewardship in high water risk areas, as well as turning chopped down alien vegetation into wood chips to be used as water-saving mulch in fruit orchards, while also reducing flood and fire risks in the cleared areas.

Riviersonderend River choked with chopped down alien trees ©Kobus Tollig

Riviersonderend River choked with chopped down alien trees ©Kobus Tollig

Wood chipper in action along Riviersonderend River ©Kobus Tollig

Wood chipper in action along Riviersonderend River ©Kobus Tollig

At a landscape-scale, new computer models have helped to monitor and improve flood forecasting within the Inkomati catchment area in Mpumalanga province.

On a national level, although South Africa has a transition plan to a lower-carbon economy, coal-fired power stations will be around for a while and are heavy users of water in the production of electricity. Reducing this water consumption is vital in a water scarce country such as South Africa. An alternative solution, which can be retrofitted to any power plant, has been assessed for Majuba power plant in Mpumalanga province, which shows how it is possible to reduce polluting emission levels without the need for additional water.

WWF-SA’s Freshwater Programme Manager Christine Colvin with Danish-SA water partners ©Sue Northam-Ras

WWF-SA’s Freshwater Programme Manager Christine Colvin with Danish-SA water partners ©Sue Northam-Ras

WWF-SA’s Freshwater Programme Manager Christine Colvin said: “These exciting projects have shown what is practically possible in a short space of time, with the right combination of technology, skills and water management.  It’s more critical than ever, with our current water shortage, that the results are scaled up and shared across municipalities, catchments, farms and even power stations.”

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Danish partners included pump manufacturer Grundfos, water environment specialists DHI, machine manufacturer Linddana, technology innovation company Haldor Topsoe, meter manufacturer Kamstrup and water and wastewater utility VCS.

In her 2015 budget speech to parliament, Nomvula Mokonyane, Minister for Water and Sanitation, called for a water and sanitation revolution to reclaim and better manage our country’s water in order to tackle the triple challenges of inequality, poverty and unemployment.

Colvin states: “We are proud that the Danish have chosen to invest in South Africa. Partnerships like this will be critical in the face of a changing climate and increasing pressures on our precious water resources during our current drought. Water connects us all, and these projects have connected a range of committed partners from the north and south in building a more water-secure future.”

To support the work of WWF South Africa, get a MyPlanet card and select them as your beneficiary.

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