The Importance of Wastewater

World Water Day

 Approximately 1 000 people converged at iNkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre, in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal   to observe World Water Day yesterday, 22 March 2017.

The World Water Day Summit and Expo which was organized by the Department of Water and Sanitation, KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government and United Nations Water under the theme “Wastewater; The Untapped Resource,” was also attended by President Jacob Zuma.

President Zuma attended the Summit in his capacity as the Chairperson of the Heads of State Committee on High Level Panel on Water and its role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Delegates which included representatives from United Nations, Government officials from African countries, civic society organisations, water experts and academics, echoed each other’s sentiments about the importance of wastewater.

The panel, which is in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) SDG6 on water, seeks to motivate effective action through focusing on public policy dialogue, private sector models and practices, and civil society initiatives towards the water SDG.

Here are some of the highlights from Day One’s proceedings

Wastewater and education

•     There are great benefits of waste water and equally, risks associated with untreated wastewater – water borne diseases. There is a need to improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimising release of hazardous chemical materials by 2030.

•             This will be achieved by halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe re-use globally. 45% of people in different countries say that wastewater is not part of their curricula at school, according to research.

•             He said issues of wastewater treatments remaining a low priority in developing countries despite being a valuable resource and the focus on water supply and sanitation services.

Wastewater and ecosystem health

•             Umgeni ecological infrastructure partnership has both ecosystem services observed, including the concept of ecological infrastructure.

•             Water quality drivers include illegal abstraction, inadequate solid waste disposal, illegal effluent and failing sewer systems which contribute to poor water quality in the system. These drivers impact the system leading to eutrophication, sedimentation and high nutrient loads infringing river capacity.

•             Partnerships (SDG 7) and different approaches for quantity and quality of water as a resource were considered.

•             Key issues highlighted waste management, industrial pollution and more importantly storm water management.

Sanitation Safety Planning for Safe Use of Waste Water in Agriculture

•             eThekwini Municipality has a major focus on developing sanitation systems as it is a constitutional right.

•             It is the municipality’s mandate to facilitate proper maintenance of wastewater treatment plants (WWTP).

•             Future plans to explore would be to use wastewater treatment plants as a utility. This will include water reuse, electricity generation and agricultural benefits.

Water reuse and resource recovery, best practices, innovation capacity

•             It is great that South African leadership is fully in support of water conservation and awareness as we need to have a balanced economy where we reuse more water and waste less.

•             Through technology, the purification of water can be more advanced and the knowledge of treated waste water will be more effective to the vast majority of people. The public will therefore have no negative outlook on treated waste water.

•             A strong partnership with the public sector is encouraged with a strong focus on the reinvestment in water related infrastructure, increase in technology and finance.

Strengthen water governance to encourage greater investments in water infrastructure in support of SDGs

•             The advantage of the private sector is to access resources, such as skills and technology. This is useful in terms of the issue of water scarcity and demand, where an innovative method (skills and technology) needs to be applied to tackle such demands.

•             Due to the limited fresh water resources, there is an opportunity to tap into the use of grey water, sea water, mine water and effluents. The role of the private sector adds value to municipalities as they have the resources to tap into the mechanisms to use waste water, and therefore help municipalities to manage risks.


•             Rain water in South Africa is below average. It is 50% less compared to other countries and within the SADC regions, there are only five months of rainfall in a year. South Africa requires innovation to foresee droughts and flooding. Acid mine drainage is affecting our ground water system therefore there is discharge into the sea which contains harmful minerals and metals. The approach needs to be looked at from the source of water to the supply of water and then back to the source of water.

•             UNESCO is to form collaboration to strengthen innovation to recognise and award innovation/appeal to political leaders to implement actions that are needed to be put in place.

 Water as an enabler: Socio-economic development for women empowerment

•             Women in the Water Empowerment programme started because of the identification of the lack of female entrepreneurs in the water sector. This programme enables women to become active contributors in the water sector, launched in October 2016. This is a three year programme which targets women-owned companies.

•             The objectives are to create opportunities for women entrepreneurs to support and ensure sustainable enterprises which will deliver efficient water service deliveries to communities.

Global Citizen’s Celebration Session: South Africa’s Leadership in Sanitation

•             Educate our citizens about the importance of sanitation and the untapped resource in waste water.