Of the 783 million people who do not have access to clean and safe water 37 percent live in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a 2014 report by The Water Project, an NPO.
This anomaly in clean water provision has led the NPO GreenSource to team up with Dutch engineers who have created an innovative system that installs water filters under artificial sport pitches in underdeveloped communities, where the stored filtered water produces many litres of clean drinking water.
GreenSource spokeswoman Corné Theunissen said the initiative had evolved towards the end of the last decade after three companies – Pentair, Drain Products and TenCate – came together to find solutions to problems of water scarcity. It culminated in a recently completed project in Rustenburg, South Africa.
“Drain Products is an expert in water drainage and storage solutions and together [with the two other companies] they came up with an innovative idea to store a borehole and rainwater under an artificial sports field, which is pre-purified before storage and then further purified at the point of use.
“It’s a smart combination of proven technologies in artificial turfs, water storage and ultra-filtration,” said Theunissen, adding that the combination of this technology was first developed and tested at the Open Innovation Centre for Advanced Materials in Nijverdal, Netherlands.
The success of the pilot project has seen GreenSource develop a plan to roll out this innovation further. Theunissen said they were “planning to install 20 systems in the whole of South Africa”.
“This project is intended as a springboard for developing countries and countries in transition that have a high need for decentralised water solutions. The water that will be used complies with (the South African National Standard) for safe and clean drinking water,” she said.
Although the pilot project was led by Dutch engineers, South African companies such as Mmapula Community Development and Royal Turf Investments were also involved in the project, and a holistic strategy was adopted where local community members were employed and upskilled.
“During the installation, the system creates temporary employment for five people who are directly involved in the installation, most of whom are retrenched males. An additional 10 (direct and indirect) permanent jobs were created for the entire project. During every installation, 10 to 15 people receive technical training by Saxion University (a Dutch institution) on the installation and maintenance of these systems,” Theunissen said.
She is confident the project is sustainable.
“The lifespan of the major components of the GreenSource system is relatively long – 25 years for the water storage tank and about 10 years for the artificial turf – although it is also dependent on its usage and climate conditions. During the project, local people are trained and employed to maintain the whole system. Through the selling of water, the system becomes self-sustainable and provides funding required for repairs and maintenance to extend the lifespan of the system.”
Theunissen said the project was funded by the Dutch government, the project’s partners and partly by South African public institutions.
She concluded by saying there were plans to serve all of Africa and other countries outside the continent, as this project, in her view, was suitable “for every country trying to cope with the problems concerning polluted water and water scarcity”.