The importance of water to all life on earth is a given, and those of our citizens that dwell in the fairest Cape were recently exposed to a vivid reminder of that importance when the seasonal rains failed, and drought caused taps to run dry in the Mother City. Where once, the natural water cycle was more than enough to support a small and predominately rural population, industrialisation and the resulting emergence of vast cities with populations numbering in the millions have seen consumption surpass production. This has created a need for water treatment plants to augment the natural recycling process.
This is a phrase that is most likely to evoke a vision of the large-scale, commercial operations conducted by municipalities and utility companies that focus on the production of a drinkable supply for the nation’s homes and businesses. The process of reclamation is highly scalable, even providing options for domestic users, and its goal is not always to create a product that is safe to drink.
In numerous industries, the use of vast quantities of water forms an integral part of many of the routine processes upon which they depend. Among its other applications, it may be used as a solvent to transport solids in suspension, or to provide steam to drive a turbine. When no longer suitable for use, a water treatment plant will usually be required to purify the contaminated effluent sufficiently to comply with legislation regarding the disposal of waste material into the environment. In such cases, failure to comply could result in contamination of surface or groundwater in or near the disposal area.
However, it is sometimes more practical to retain waste rather than treating it only to dispose of it in this manner. Treated waste that is considered safe for disposal, could instead be re-used as, for many industrial processes, a high level of purity is not really necessary. In such cases, the function of an industrial water treatment plant becomes one of reclamation. Not only does this practice help to relieve some of the growing pressure on the country’s seriously depleted reserves, but the decision to adopt a reclamation policy can also contribute to a significant reduction in a factory’s operating costs.
What applies to South Africa’s factory owners also applies to the nation’s farmers, although in the latter case, the need arises as much from their isolation as from environmental issues. Responsible for a large percentage of the nation’s consumption, even though mainly from underground sources and dams rather than municipal sources, a water treatment plant offers the farmer a means to reclaim both grey and black wastewater, which can then be used for tasks, such as washing vehicles and agricultural equipment.
Though certainly not the biggest consumers, households are also threatened by the risk of drought and the steady depletion of the reserves. Like the factory owners and farmers, they are also beginning to see the value of conserving water. For some, this means a rainwater tank, while others are choosing to invest in a water treatment plant.
While even collecting rainwater is a valuable conservative measure that can deliver an end-product suitable for most purposes other than drinking, reclaiming grey and black wastewater offers additional benefits. Firstly, rain is often a seasonal phenomenon often punctuated by long dry spells. By contrast, routine home activities like cooking, washing, and the use of the toilet produce large volumes of waste that are destined to end up in the municipal sewage system every day.
Instead, installing a domestic water treatment plant could first retain and then purify that wasted effluent sufficiently for uses, such as cleaning cars, windows, and driveways. It is an investment that, depending upon one’s average daily consumption, could pay for itself in just a year or two, as the direct result of reductions to the monthly municipal account.
The details of systems differ but, in general, these installations have been designed to mimic the same purification processes employed in nature, and that were once sufficient to maintain a balanced environment in a less industrialised and much sparser population. Technology, however, promises the possibility of a return to environmental balance. Each additional water treatment plant installed in a South African factory, farm, or domestic dwelling brings us one step closer to achieving this important goal, while Watericon offers the world-class products and services that can ensure success.