In today’s world, water and wastewater treatment works need to be flexible and scalable. IMIESA speaks to NJ Bouwer, executive at NuWater, about the company’s range of modular solutions and its unique ‘water on wheels’ approach, which is specially geared towards rapid deployment and redeployment in a modular and scalable package.

Ageing treatment plants and pipeline infrastructure pose a serious health and environmental threat, exacerbated by periodic drought conditions across most parts of South Africa. Skills shortages and funding gaps compound the problem, placing a major strain on operations and maintenance teams.

Another significant factor is an unprecedented influx of rural migrants, a number of whom end up in informal settlements around South Africa’s towns and cities. This added demand places further constraints on supply, which then has a knock-on effect for agricultural, commercial and industrial users. Another growing concern is whether treated water and wastewater sources are still meeting local and international process specification standards.

“For municipal managers and engineers, it’s a question of how best to manage risks and reduce costs while at the same time delivering a high standard of services to affected stakeholders,” explains Bouwer. “Here, new technologies and interventions are required to provide efficient and affordable short-, medium- and long-term solutions that either complement or replace existing plants and processes. Frequently though, more urgent interventions are required to remedy and put things back on track when systems fail suddenly or become completely overloaded.

“As an original design and equipment manufacturer, we have a proven track record for engineered and innovative responses that work,” he continues. “Our philosophy is to use fit-for-purpose equipment and processes that mitigate identified risks and lower expenses.”

NuWater currently offers services to numerous municipalities, either through augmentation of their existing supply or as a backup solution during maintenance shutdowns. “Thanks to our modular approach, NuWater’s systems work seamlessly alongside current municipal infrastructure, integrating quickly and taking up a fraction of the footprint, which means there’s usually room to add additional units over time,” Bouwer points out. 

Water on Wheels

NuWater is a full-service water company offering equipment sales; build, own and operate (BOO); build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT); or  standard rentals. Lease and lease-to-own options are also available. Rental periods can be as short as three months. NuWater also specialises in consulting, project management and existing system operations, maintenance and upgrades.

“We typically start with a water analysis and then design the water treatment system to meet the customer’s specific requirements,” Bouwer explains.

All NuWater units can be powered from the grid. Alternatively, and depending on the scale of the application and the related power requirement, optional diesel or solar generators are integrated into the treatment unit.

Water for eMalahleni

eMalahleni Local Municipality serves as a prime example of how NuWater’s technologies and flexible rental, or ownership, packages
can simply, and effectively, resolve a service delivery challenge.

One of eMalahleni’s water treatment plants became overloaded when demand exceeded its capacity. Process systems became clogged, with up to 20 million litres of water per day used just to backwash and rinse out the filters. In addition to an increased risk of contamination, lower volumes of potable water were having a negative impact on service delivery and the municipal revenue collection targets.

NuWater’s modular plant installation provided an immediate solution and the following
key benefits

  • The existing water treatment works now runs at design capacity while the NuWater plant delivers the balance of the total volumes required.
  • This is a ‘plug-and-play’ solution, funded off-balance-sheet. The plant is self-financed via incoming municipal water tariff fees.
  • The system can expand easily as demand requires or be redistributed to areas within the same district to provide immediate relief.

Industrial reuse and downstream abstraction

For brackish water and seawater desalination, NuWater is at the forefront of reverse osmosis (RO) technologies. This includes intellectual property related to 16″ RO systems successfully used for wastewater applications such as in the mining sector.

Over time, New Vaal’s previous reliance on a dedicated wastewater reservoir for capture and storage proved inadequate. In 2010, the mine invited BOO proposals for a 15 million litre per day treatment plant. NuWater was awarded the bid. The installed plant has the capacity to produce over 20 million litres per day, which can be extended with the addition of modules housed in trailer-mounted containers.

A good example is the New Vaal Colliery, established in 1983. Previously owned by Anglo, the mine has recently been acquired Seriti. This mine is located close to a major municipality and the Vaal River, a vital source of water for industry and agriculture, in addition to supporting around 12 million consumers in and around Gauteng. That places an even
greater emphasis on the need for strict environmental control.

High-quality product water is now pumped to the mine’s power station to supplement cooling water requirements, helping to conserve scarce resources. Additionally, water returned to rivers meets the strictest abstraction requirements for downstream utilities and municipal plants. Cleaner water lowers treatment costs and extends the useable life of process equipment for both industry and municipalities.

“The extended drought conditions experienced across South Africa clearly emphasise the need for a rethink on consumer water use behaviour,” Bouwer expands. “That has a major impact on micro- and macroeconomic performance.

“The right to water and sanitation is non-negotiable and, as an industry and a country, we must find ways to rollout projects faster and more affordably. That’s why NuWater is committed to making its technologies and expertise accessible to as broad a range of customers as possible, irrespective of the scale of the requirement or the in-house technical expertise of the client,” he concludes.

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