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Waste water treatment plants: The financing mechanisms associated with achieving green drop rating
Expanded Title:Executive summary Background The Water for Growth and Development Report (Department of Water Affairs, 2009c) notes with concern that poor water quality is a threat to the growth of the South African economy. Malfunctioning wastewater treatment works (WWTW) is a major cause of the deteriorating water quality in the country and it may be expected to threaten neighbouring countries in the river basins which South Africa shares with its neighbours. In an effort to reverse the trend of deteriorating water quality in the country, the Department of Water Affairs has introduced the Green Drop programme. This programme aims to improve the performance of WWTWs through providing an incentive to the works in the form of a scoring system which rates the aspects of WWTW performance. Those WWTWs which were performing properly were awarded Green Drop status. The first Green Drop assessment was conducted in 2009. A total of 449 WWTWs out of 853 municipal WWTWs were assessed in this first round. Thirty two of the WWTWs assessed were awarded Green Drop Status, but a number of these achieved very low scores (see Chapter 2). It was against this backdrop that this project set out to achieve the objectives as described in the following section. Objectives The objectives of this project were as follows: 1. To determine the challenges and their contribution to the cumulative risk rating (CRR) that various categories of wastewater treatment works (WWTW) are facing. 2. To determine what the financial cost implications are for improving the performance of WWTW. 3. To determine the high-level environmental, health and economic implications of not improving the performance of WWTW (where high-level refers to a strategic and economy-wide analysis as opposed to low-level that would imply a detailed analysis for an individual WWTW). 4. To determine a pricing and financing mechanism towards improving the performance and CRR of WWTW. Findings What would it take to improve the quality of service rendered by wastewater treatment works (WWTWs), and what is the risk of not doing so and how could this risk be mitigated? This study endeavoured to unpack these questions and to provide some suggestions as to what is required. From analysing the Green Drop Ratings (GDR) of 416 WWTWs for 2009 and 2011, the following has been established: • For WWTWs that achieved a substantial improvement in GDR from a mid to high range in 2009: o The criteria that showed the most consistent improvement in this group were Effluent Quality Compliance, and Process Control; o The Change in Wastewater Facility Capacity was improved in 10 WWTWs, while in others this criterion declined. • WWTWs where the GDR showed a substantial improvement from a low base in 2009: o Showed an improvement in each of the criteria examined; o Although the improvement in Effluent Quality Compliance was less marked than in some of the other criteria, the weighting of 30% makes this the most important area for improvement. Some WWTWs showed large gains in Operations (Process Control). • WWTW where the GDR showed a substantial improvement from a 0 (zero) base in 2009: o Showed substantial improvement in each of the criteria examined. o Noticeably in this category is the improvement in Effluent Quality Compliance and Operations (Process Control) where the improvement shown across the range of WWTWs is more consistent. o Criteria which showed smaller improvements in this category are Submission of Wastewater Quality Results and Wastewater Quality Failure Response. • WWTWs showing a substantial decrease in GDS from 2009 to 2011: Criteria which showed consistently large decreases between 2009 and 2011 were Submission of Wastewater Quality Results, Effluent Quality Compliance, Wastewater Monitoring Programme and Wastewater Sample Analysis (Credibility). General observations from WWTWs which showed an increase in their GDS also showed: • Improvements in the management of the WWTWs. • That the most important categories in each case being Effluent Quality Compliance and Operations (Process Control). In the group of WWTWs which showed a decline in rating Operations (Process Control) being an area where an intervention would have strong positive outcomes. Given this knowledge and background, this study explored what will it cost to improve the performance of WWTWs? This question was analysed using a multivariate linear regression model that was developed using data from KwaZulu-Natal WWTWs. The model found that the factors affecting the future GDR in KwaZulu-Natal most, i.e. the drivers of the GDR, were:  skills availability,  effluent treatment levels in relation to plant capacity,  investment in refurbishment and improvements (R&I), and  the risk category of the plant. The model was then applied to the 19 ERWAT WWTWs in Gauteng and a number of baseline results were generated. Results were distinguished by drainage district, size class and technology class. It was found that the ERWAT sites are likely to benefit from improved investment in R&I as the necessary skills are, for the most part, already in place to manage this process. The study suggests that investments in R&I could result in positive improvements in the GDR of ERWAT WWTWs when compared with the expected 2015 levels. The above results clearly point to the need for future investment and hence the need to consider different pricing and financing mechanisms for achieving this investment. While there is a range of conventional pricing and financing options available (see Annexures 1 and 2), they tend to be expensive options and difficult to access over the short-term. This dilemma is aggravated by an urgent need to improve and upgrade many of the WWTWs in South Africa. A range of innovative pricing and financing mechanisms for assisting in dealing with the implications of the rapid growth in urbanisation and economic development has recently emerged. Applying such options would also assist in reducing the pollution discharges and assist in achieving the much required environmental outcomes, while being efficient and cost-effective. It is, therefore, recommended that WWTWs strongly consider implementing such in addition to their on-going engineering solutions linked to R&I and expansion. These options include the consideration of Payments for Ecosystem Services, and/or the introduction of a pollution discharge trading system. With the consideration of these it would be possible to integrate both financial efficiency considerations as well as environmental objectives. There is a substantial risk linked to the non-improvement in the performance of WWTWs. Not only is the current load on WWTWs too much already and hence their underperformance, adding additional loads that could logically be expected due to increases in both income and people, will only add to the already overburdened ecosystems in which the effluent are being discharge. This will add to the economic cost of such pollution (Graham et al., 2011:ix-xii). Not only is the economic cost a concern, but also the deteriorating ability of ecosystems to absorb/dilute the effluent loads. This places the entire water system in highly populated places such as Gauteng at high risk as the ecosystems are required to act as water purifier of last resort. A contaminated water system is akin to a contaminated socio-ecological and economic system as it affects each and every part of both economy and society. While the upgrade and expansion of WWTWs are imperative, the difficulties WWTWs are being faced with is to source the required funds and skills to access such funds, and the time it takes to develop new financing mechanism, which requires that urgent action be taken to mitigate the risk. Attention should therefore be given to the introduction of technologies such as floating islands, which could be used either on-site (i.e. on the WWTWs oxidation or maturation ponds) or off-site (i.e. in the river system). The introduction of these technologies could coincide with implementing Payments for Ecosystem Services, such as for the reduction of nutrient loads using wetlands, and pollution discharge trading systems. The conjunctive use of WWTWs and floating wetlands, as an example of one form of biotechnology, has proven to be the most cost-effective way to improve water quality and to mitigate the risk of ecosystem collapse, with its ensuing socio-economic, political and ecological consequences. Conclusion The current precarious state of wastewater treatment works in South Africa is a matter of grave concern. It has a detrimental impact not only the health of both people and ecosystems; it negatively affects the moral fibre of society leading to social unrests and even deaths. This is a matter that requires urgent and immediate attention. This study identified the drivers for change and/or improvement, irrespective of the size of the plant, to be skills and the cost of improving WWTWs through refurbishment and improvements. This implies the need to improve the skill base of the workforce and to invest in the refurbishment of the plants. As conventional financing mechanisms tend to be expensive, the range of innovative and environmental benign funding options that have recently emerged should be explored. Failure to improve the quality of the country’s wastewater treatment works will require the riparian systems to provide waste dilution services, increasingly so and in a compounded way. This will place undue pressure on the already stressed systems. Decision-makers would therefore be well-advised to engage in mitigating such risk by investing in in-stream biotechnologies as a risk mitigating measure concurrent to investing in the refurbishment of wastewater treatment works.
Date Published:01/04/2014
Document Type:Research Report
Document Subjects:Wastewater Management - Domestic
Document Keywords:Governance, Municipality, Pollution control, Water Quality
Document Format:Report
Document File Type:pdf
Research Report Type:Standard
WRC Report No:2085/1/14
ISBN No:978-1-4312-0529-5
Authors:Mitchell SA; de Wit MP; Blignaut JN; Crookes D
Project Leader:Mitchell SA
Project No:K5/2085
Originator:WRC
Organizations:Asset Research
Document Size:3 069 KB
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