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A newly upgraded desalination plant in the Eastern Cape has brought welcome relief to parts of the drought-stricken region.

Amatola Water contracted Quality Filtration Systems (QFS) to upgrade the Albany Coast reverse osmosis plant at Ndlambe in the Eastern Cape. Completed in eight weeks, Phase 1 of the upgrade increased the plant’s capacity by 1.4 million litres to a total of 3.5 million litres, serving a population of over 11 000 people.

The desalination plant, located between Bushman’s River and Kenton-on-Sea, was opened by Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Lindiwe Sisulu in December 2019.

Officials from Ndlambe Municipality, Amatola Water, the local business forum, the ratepayers’ associations and the Kenton Development Forum joined forces to implement a plan that included maintenance and repairing leaks and the Amatola-funded upgrade of the treatment works.

Drought relief

With many rivers in the region running dry, the upgrade of the Albany Coast reverse osmosis plant brought welcome relief to holidaymakers and residents impacted by water shortages.

“This is the oldest and one of the few facilities in the Eastern Cape that draws water from the ocean via reverse osmosis and converts that water to drinkable World Health Organization-standard water,” said Herman Smit, managing director, QFS.

“As one of the most experienced membrane technology suppliers in South Africa, we were extremely proud to be selected by Amatola Water to provide the much-needed water for this area in the Eastern Cape,” he added.

The plant was originally built in 1982 and became the first desalination plant in South Africa. Amatola Water has allocated R80 million for the plant to be upgraded.

Alternative solutions

Smit believes that small- to medium-sized membrane-based plants delivering up to 5 million litres per day will play a major role in emergency drought alleviation for cities and towns.

Along the coast, this will take the form of desalination, while inland users can take advantage of wastewater reuse. Both these applications require speciality membrane plants including ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis.

Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Lindiwe Sisulu with Musa Ndlovu, director, QFS, at the opening of the plant

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