Desalination and the reuse of wastewater from municipalities and mining are strongly emphasised in the 2nd National Water Resources Strategy (NWRS2) for South Africa released at the start of July 2013.

The document forecasts desalination of seawater on a large scale, brackish water desalination, treatment of mine water and reuse of municipal and industrial wastewater.

Introducing the strategy on 3 July 2013, the minister of water and environmental affairs, Edna Molewa, said, “There is a need for greater focus on water conservation and water demand management, increased value and utilisation of groundwater, reuse of wastewater at the coast as well as in inland systems, opportunity for more dams and transfer schemes, desalination and treated mine water desalination to name but a few.”

The strategy document, which includes as an annex the National Desalination Strategy published in May 2011, says that the desalination strategy is “consistent with NWRS2”.

“Particular attention will be given to the potential for the desalination of seawater for supplying coastal towns and cities where there are sufficient sources of electricity for this purpose,” says the new strategy. “The Department of Water Affairs (DWA) will work with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and other responsible departments to develop an integrated, streamlined and time-effective approach to regulatory approval of works for the desalination of water.”

The DWA will cooperate with the WRC, the Department of Science & Technology, the Department of Trade & Industry and the private sector to support the development of desalination technologies where South Africa has comparative advantages, especially in desalination processes related to mining and industry.

The document also states that the DWA will promote the establishment of a centre of expertise and excellence in desalination technologies at one or more South African universities, or in an institution such as the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority or the Water Research Commission, in support of this initiative.

On wastewater reuse, the strategy says that the DWA will engage with the Department of Energy and DEA to ensure that appropriate conditions are placed on mining licences that will ensure that mines treat acid mine drainage to a suitable standard. The DWA’s Reconciliation Strategies will incorporate treated acid mine drainage as an additional resource, where appropriate. It will continue to undertake the planning necessary to develop feasible long-term solutions to acid mine drainage challenges throughout the country, similar to the work being done in the Witwatersrand area.

Municipalities must conduct feasibility studies of water reuse options in all water-scarce areas. Such investigations are planned for eThekwini (treated effluent from eThekwini and KwaMashu), Nelson Mandela Bay, Rustenburg, Mangaung, Buffalo City, George-Mossel Bay and Mbombela-Bushbuckridge over the next five years. Where the municipality lacks capacity to conduct such a study, the DWA will provide support, says the document.