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Research: KSA 3

(KSA 3) Water Use and Waste Management


The Water Use and Waste Management KSA focuses mainly on the domestic, industrial and mining water sectors. It aims to proactively and effectively lead and support the advancement of technology, science, management and policies relevant to water supply, waste and effluent management, for these sectors. This KSA also supports studies on institutional and management issues, with special emphasis on the efficient functioning of water service institutions and their viability. Research on infrastructure for both water supply and sanitation is included. A further focus is on water supply and treatment technology serving the domestic (urban, rural, large and small systems) as well as the industrial/commercial and mining sectors of our economy. This KSA also focuses on waste and effluent as well as reuse technologies that can support the municipal, mining and industrial sectors and improve management in these sectors with the aim of improving productivity and supporting economic growth while minimising the negative effect on human and environmental health.


The provision and supply of water of adequate quality and quantity for economic and public health purposes remain continuous challenges. Water is a finite resource and, specifically in the context of South Africa, is becoming incrementally scarce. Managing water use and the waste released to the water environment is thus of paramount importance to ensure the sustainability of the resource and the activities relying on it. Water use and waste management in South Africa is consequently a key factor for social and economic growth, as well as for our environment. The entire way we think about and use water is thus an important factor in determining our future. In recent years the focus of the KSA has been on supporting the implementation of various pieces of legislation that impact on the provision of sustainable water services. The support was in the form of unpacking and understanding key elements within legislation and the impact on the water services sector. The result has been a bias towards developing guidelines and tools to assist new and emerging municipalities and politicians to understand their responsibilities, which also included repackaging information of a technical nature. In the process we have maintained a balance with dealing with cutting-edge technological advances and have been concentrating on their application and commercialisation. Developing innovative processes and technologies for water purification, reuse and treatment of wastewater from domestic to industrial and mining activities has been and is of even greater importance to our country, especially in the light of problems related to the deteriorating quality of our water resources and the rising costs and reliability of energy. Considering the emerging challenges, research in the KSA will continue to focus on greater innovation and development of cutting-edge technologies to respond to the issues of poor O&M, competency and capacity constraints, reuse, energy efficiency, climate change constraints, emerging contaminants and the aspect of drinking water quality. 


Video Clip :  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFNd964R2Vk


The primary objective of this KSA is to provide knowledge that ensures reliable, affordable and efficient water use and waste
management services to enhance the quality of life, and contribute to economic growth and improved public health.


The secondary objectives are to:

*   Improve the management of water services in both rural and urban areas

*    Develop appropriate technologies for improving the quality and quantity of our water supplies for both domestic use and industrial applications

*    Develop new approaches to manage and enhance hygiene and sanitation practices

*    Provide appropriate, innovative and integrated solutions to water and waste management in the industrial and mining sectors

*   Develop applications for improved treatment of wastewater and effluent and improve processes for enabling increased reuse thereof

*   Improve health, economic and environmental conditions, while supporting the development of appropriate technologies and socially-focused management practices related to water and effluent management

The objectives of the KSA are orientated towards making a difference and impact in the areas of health, economy, environment and society. These are achieved through a portfolio of focused thrusts:

Overview and description of thrusts and programmes 


Scope: The efficient functioning of water service institutions and their viability are key to sustaining water services in rural and urban areas. The focus of this thrust is to address strategic research aspects related to policy issues, institutional reform, regulation, infrastructure management, water-related competencies and capacity required for the strengthening of water institutions (water services providers, water services authorities, water boards, national departments) in providing sustainable water services.

Programme 1:

Cost-recovery in water services

Scope: The issue of cost-recovery has been identified as a critical aspect affecting sustainable services. In an environment where genuine poverty affects cost-recovery, this programme intends to develop innovative strategies and processes to tackle the problem. The focus will be on generating in-depth knowledge of the problem and testing new approaches.

Programme 2:

Institutional and
management issues - Water services

Scope: Relationships and partnerships between service providers, both external and internal, are important prerequisites to sustainable water service delivery. This programme’s objective is to generate knowledge and processes that would support this new form of service delivery. Innovative management techniques are a necessity for viable and sustainable water service provision. This programme intends to find innovative solutions to critical problems with the financing and management of essential services such as water supply and sanitation.

Programme 3:

Innovative management arrangements - Rural water supply

Scope: The focus of research within this programme is to provide support to water service institutions with special reference to sustainable cost-recovery and implementation of the free basic water policy; key performance indicators for monitoring and evaluation of service delivery; guidelines for sound management of water service institutions and development of effective strategies for promoting an integrated approach to rural development.

Programme 4:

Regulation of water services

Scope: Regulation of water services is important for the sector to achieve improved functioning and performance in the delivery of water and sanitation services, to the benefit of the population. Furthermore, it ensures greater efficiency and improved management of infrastructure and customers. This programme will support, through knowledge creation, the development of an effective water regulatory environment.

Programme 5:

Water services education and awareness

Scope:  A fully-informed community or individual plays a vital role in the sustainable use of water services, which contributes to water efficiency and improved environmental health.  This programme will address education and awareness aspects which contribute to efficient water use, improved hygiene behaviour and sustainable services.


Scope: The provision and supply of affordable and reliable water of acceptable quality and quantity for drinking (domestic) and economic (industrial/commercial and mining) activities, remain continuous challenges. Research support for these activities is the focus of this thrust. The objective of this thrust is to develop innovative technologies and processes that address aspects related to bulk water supply, water treatment technology, distribution and water quality.

Programme 1:

Drinking water treatment technology

Scope: The programme aims to acquire adequate understanding of potable water treatment processes and related activities and to be able to assist in treating our scarce water resources in the most efficient and cost-effective way to an acceptable quality for potable and industrial use. Expected outcomes include improved and more cost-efficient process technologies, increased operational efficiency of treatment plants and an improved manpower training level and knowledge base.

Programme 2:

Water treatment for rural communities

Scope: This programme aims to produce innovative and appropriate water treatment and supply technologies and processes that will ensure an adequate supply of safe and clean drinking water for rural communities.

Programme 3:

Drinking water quality

Scope: The programme aims to protect human health by ensuring that water supplies are of acceptable quality and standards. Outcomes include improved analytical methodologies, treatment technologies and hygiene practices.

Programme 4:

Water distribution and distribution systems

Scope: The programme aims to optimise the quality, quantity and reliability of the distribution and supply of treated potable water to end-users. The programme has the following expected outcomes: to develop reliable processes in predicting and improving the operational efficiencies in distribution systems, with the purpose of reducing both capital and operational costs; to ensure that the quality and quantity of water is maintained in the distribution system – from the water treatment plant to the furthest end-user; and to develop innovative methods, tools and processes that will improve system integrity and reliability.


Scope: This thrust focuses on the development of technologies and systems that optimise the full wastewater and sanitation services chain in the municipal (domestic) sector. This includes the reticulation, treatment and management of the residues. The challenge is to implement fitting solutions for a particular application that will remain functional throughout the intended lifespan of the installed infrastructure. This includes the responsible management of the wastewater sludge and faecal sludge that is generated. The need for innovative technologies and solutions is recognised as we prepare for the future – achieving more stringent effluent discharge standards, developing acceptable non-waterborne sewerage solutions, reliable treatment of ever-increasing high-strength domestic wastewater, informing future policy, etc.

Programme 1:

Emerging treatment technologies – Preparing for the future



Scope: It is imperative to develop technologies which can achieve future policy objectives and stricter standards. It is also recognised that research generates information which could inform future policy. This programme encourages the development of technologies to address the future anticipated municipal waterborne sewage and sanitation needs as well as to support Government by informing future policy. It supports development of technological solutions addressing, amongst others: reuse, recovery, non-waterborne sewerage solutions, grey-water management, peri-urban sanitation solutions, high-strength effluent treatment, industrial and domestic effluent co-treatment, etc. It also supports research aimed at informing future policy through data interpretation, projections, risk assessments, addressing emerging pollutants, predictive models, etc.

Programme 2:

Application of appropriate technologies and tools


Scope: This programme addresses the improvement and innovative application of existing ‘fit for purpose’ technology for waterborne sewage treatment and on-site sanitation. The objective is to optimise appropriate application to consistently achieve strict standards, with added benefits such as cost saving, ensuring ease of operation and maintenance, and improving reliability and energy efficiency. The integration of social and local economic development objectives is encouraged. The programme further focuses on the technical sustainability of wastewater treatment and sanitation services by critically appraising existing policy (including effluent discharge standards) and impacts.

Programme 3:

Stormwater and sewerage systems


Scope: The programme supports the strategic and technical aspects of managing stormwater and sewerage and their impacts in urban, peri-urban and rural contexts. The development of generic stormwater and sewerage planning and technology selection, design and maintenance tools is encouraged to address current needs. In order to address anticipated needs, the programme supports research focusing on improved technology including water-sensitive urban design (WSUD) and stormwater reuse. It will cover technical design, operational, maintenance, refurbishment and management aspects of stormwater and sewerage reticulation systems, to provide sustainable infrastructure in the extended delivery of sanitation services as a national priority.

Programme 4:

Wastewater sludge and faecal sludge management

Scope: All wastewater treatment and on-site sanitation facilities generate a solid/sludge that needs to be managed responsibly. This programme focuses on research dedicated to improve wastewater sludge and faecal sludge management practices. Research on characterisation, emerging technologies and solutions, anaerobic processes for stabilisation, minimisation, de-watering, disinfection and beneficiation is encouraged.

Programme 5:

Sanitation technology and innovations

Scope: To develop innovative tools and technology which support appropriate sanitation that is socially, environmentally and financially sustainable.


Scope: Water is a strategic issue to the industrial sector.  While water usage by the industrial sectors is not as great as, e.g., agriculture or domestic consumption, the impacts of the pollutants in industrial wastes and effluents on health and the environment can be significant, costly and long-lasting. The aim of this thrust is to quantify water use and waste production, predict impacts(risks) over the short-medium and long-term and develop and apply methods of prevention minimisation reuse, recycle, recovery and beneficiation. This thrust also aims to provide appropriate, innovative and integrated solutions for water efficiency and waste management for industries. In addition, Thrust 4 establishes the governance, policy and regulatory environment that currently exists and the enabling environment that will be required to change behaviours to conserve water, grow the economy, protect society and the environment. 

Programme 1:

Emerging challenges and solutions for the 21st century

Scope: This programme seeks to look at major challenges that may face South Africa in future at a water quality, quantity, and security level. It will explore emerging fields in science and engineering, such as nanotechnology, to provide solutions to these challenges. In addition to seeking new solutions, this programme will also investigate new and emerging industries, their water needs and the associated threats to health and environment. The concept of sustainable future industrial complexes and their water management will allow for better planning and regulation of new industries, enabling improved adoption of integrated resource management systems, processes and tools.

Programme 2:

Integrated water management

Scope: This programme focuses on integrated and innovative management arrangements, e.g., public-private partnerships (PPP), to support industry and government programmes which may be site-, catchment- and/or region-specific. While the programme will focus on water, it aims to promote a more holistic approach to resource (water, energy and carbon) management by industries to bring about sustainable approaches to water and wastewater management ensuring that liabilities (waste) are turned into assets (resources) for the benefit of the environment, society and economy.

Programme 3:

Quantification, prediction and minimisation of water use and waste production

Scope: In order to prioritise those facets of industrial water management that need the most urgent attention, it is important to quantify the water used and waste produced by different sectors. This programme will also look to develop new methodologies and models to aid in quantification, prediction and evaluation of data. The environmental consequences of waste products are almost always long-term in nature and these long-lasting (legacy) effects were often not fully appreciated in the past, and consequently not properly considered when waste was disposed of. Thus, this programme also aims to establish and improve pollution prediction capabilities appropriate to South African conditions and to develop cost-effective techniques and approaches to minimise or reduce the impact that legacy and new waste products have on the environment.

Programme 4:

Governance, policy, regulatory, and economical instruments to improve industrial water management

Scope: The regulatory authorities are responsible for authorising and regulating the impact of industrial waste on the quality and quantity of our water resources. Traditionally the resource-intensive command-and-control approach was used almost exclusively to manage water quality. Internationally, use is increasingly made of indirect economic or other instruments to supplement or even replace the command-and-control approach to water quality management. These new approaches are believed to be more cost-effective and to improve equity. Both the established and new approaches are being investigated and refined in order to support improvements to the governance, policy, regulatory, self-regulatory, and financial mechanisms that could be used to control and reduce the negative environmental effects associated with industrial waste. This programme will largely look at these mechanisms from an industry perspective in order to improve, review and enable implementation. 

Programme 5:

Water efficiency , cleaner production, beneficiation and treatment of industrial effluents

Scope: This programme looks at water use efficiency and associated tools, methodologies and systems as a primary driver of reduced effluent generation. In spite of efforts to minimise waste production it is acknowledged that effluent production will for the foreseeable future remain an expected consequence of industrial activities, and thus this programme aims to support the development of a range of processes and techniques for effective beneficiation, recovery, reuse, recycle, disposal and ultimately treatment of industrial effluents. The international trend towards waste management is to minimise the production of waste by adopting cleaner production processes and green chemistry concepts for chemicals. Approaches such as life-cycle analysis are employed to ensure that the net effect is positive and does not merely represent the transfer of negative effects from one sector or environmental medium to another.  In addition, the programme entails the exploration and exploitation of in-process recycling and reuse opportunities prior to end-of-pipe treatment solutions. Expected outcomes include the potential recovery of materials, water and energy for beneficial reuse, and fundamental scientific/engineering support for process development, and thus longer-term initiation of the secondary economy opportunities within South Africa.



Scope: The usage of water in mining and mineral processing/refining produces high volumes of solid wastes and liquid effluents. Some mining activities generate acid mine drainage (AMD) or other mining-impacted waters. This thrust aims to provide appropriate, innovative and integrated solutions to water use and waste management in the mining sector. Future operations will almost exclusively take place in water-scarce regions (e.g. Waterberg, Eastern Limb) and their development will require reallocation of already stretched resources through, e.g., improved water demand and water conservation management. Additional priorities will include brine handling, biological sulphur compound transformation and aversion of future impacts.

Programme 1:

Water use and waste production

Scope: This programme focuses on investigations into quantification of water used and waste produced by the sector, currently, and predicting and quantifying the short-, medium- and especially long-term impacts the wastes generated will have. The environmental consequences of mining activity are almost always long-term in nature, with impacts that last for centuries. These long-lasting effects were often not fully understood in the past, and consequently not properly considered. In the present regulatory environment it is increasingly expected of waste producers to quantify the present and future environmental impacts of their past and present operations and to indicate how these will be remedied, as well as how such consequences can be avoided when planning future operations.

Programme 2:

Regulatory, management and institutional arrangements

Scope: The creation of sustainable arrangements (e.g. public-private partnerships) that enable the mitigation and prevention of the environmental, social and economic legacies of the mining and minerals industries is complex.  Priorities include addressing the treatment and supply of bulk water using acid mine drainage (AMD), a realistic estimate of non-point-source pollution relating to the waste discharge charge system and determining the price elasticity for water use of the sector (determine the potential to decrease water use through tariff increases). This programme interrogates such aspects from the perspective of the mining sector. (Note: Policy development falls under KSA1).

Programme 3:

Minimising waste production

Scope: This programme focuses on investigations into developing technologies and methods to decrease/minimise the generation of waste products in the mining sector, either through cleaner production, by-product generation, life-cycle analysis or through applying other risk assessment methodologies. The programme incorporates novel mining methods and mining-impacted water prevention strategies. Waste minimisation at the national, regional, (catchment), complex or single-site scale is considered. Identification of opportunities to convert liabilities into assets and holistic, long-term research into the beneficial use and recovery of brines, their solutes, and other waste products, are also included.

Programme 4:

Mining in the 21st century

Scope: The emerging challenges related to avoiding recreating the legacies of past operations call for emerging solutions. Programme 4 will investigate the prediction and avoidance of long-term water impacts and implications associated with establishing new operations within different geographical areas. It will also actively pursue beneficiation initiatives, re-mining of wastes, etc. (especially innovative ideas and piloting/scale-up). 

Programme 5:

Low volume mined products

Scope: Much research attention has been paid to coal and gold mining; however, other quarried or mined products such as radio-nuclides and platinum group metals also require consideration and in some cases present unique challenges. Water use and demand management, water-conserving metallurgical and extraction processes and investigation of the impacts and amelioration of mine discards specific to these products will be addressed in this programme.


Scope: Drinking water and commercial activities have a high cost and assurance attached to them, as well as growing competitive demands.  The wise and efficient use of this water has a profound impact on our water environment, resources and investments.  Thus, this fund will support research, demonstration and development of any innovative idea, technology or process which supports the efficient use, reuse and conservation of our precious water and related energy efficiency in the domestic, industrial and mining sectors.



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