Gauteng Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  17 Jun 2010

SUSTAINABILITY: Water - How Sustainable is Your Business?


Recent Gauteng Business News

If you believe recent reports on the state of South Africa’s water security in the face of climate change, degrading infrastructure, and dwindling resources - water will become more expensive and supply more unreliable into the future.

“Like energy water is fundamental to the sustainability of most businesses,” says Stuart Dunsmore, Director of Engineering and environmental consulting company PBA International. “We all need water to function. However, in times of shortage or unreliable supply you cannot simply generate your own water. This may place businesses in a precarious position and call their sustainability into question.”

According to Dunsmore one of the issues that PBA International is looking into is how climate change may affect municipal service delivery, and how businesses can improve water security into the future. PBA International is currently working with hospital group Netcare to assess the benefits of rainwater harvesting in their organisation as a way of improving water security.

Large water users usually review resource availability and plan accordingly, suggests Dunsmore, but many others in urban and metropolitan environments rely on municipal or utility supply and trust these utilities to resolve potential shortages. These utilities face an uphill struggle to secure reliable supplies, often from far away catchments, and even across international borders (e.g. Lesotho).

However, a potentially important local water source is being overlooked: storm water runoff. Urban areas increase runoff by between two and four-fold over Greenfield conditions and much of this is lost to us as a water resource. The idea of harvesting this resource is not new. Ideally it should be done at municipal level, but individual site initiatives may also result in improved water security.

According to Netcare Group Technical Manager Peter Schilder a pilot study is underway at the Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg to ascertain the possibility of using rainwater runoff as a way to make the hospital more independent of external water suppliers.

“At the Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg the average roof runoff in a year is as much as 50% more than the hospital’s annual consumption from the municipal mains,” suggests Schilder. “Netcare Milpark Hospital is therefore a net producer of water, and yet the hospital is entirely reliant on supply from the municipality.”

Schilder believes that there has to be a more sustainable solution. PBA International is looking into achieving the right water balance such that storage (for seasonal variability) is minimised but security of supply is maximised. Treatment requirements are also being investigated.

“Netcare’s hospitals are situated around the country and some are in areas where there may be a risk to the municipal water security,” he continues. “We therefore decided to look into the subject of water sustainability with PBA International and see if we could cut back on our use of supplies from municipalities and ensure our facilities have more reliable water supplies into the future.”

Schilder points out that: “Netcare is dedicated to finding greener and more energy efficient solutions that ensure the sustainability of the hospital group, its communities and the environment.” He says that the group is, for example, also working on a project with Eskom to reduce its energy demands by as much as 15% by 2015.

Dunsmore says the Milpark project is a fairly straightforward utilisation of roof runoff, but urban water resources should consider a combination of solutions including infiltration drainage, groundwater recharge and wetland development. Municipalities should be looking at integrated solutions, while companies like Netcare have the opportunity to achieve more independent solutions to secure their water future.

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