| Infrastructure news Resourcing the word – a commitment to SDG 6

Veolia Services Southern Africa has aligned its business to help its customers support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The UN’s 17 SDGs have one ambitious target – to end extreme poverty and achieve sustainable development worldwide by 2030. Not only is achieving SDG 6 – ‘Clean water and sanitation for all – essential for the water and sanitation sector, but it also has a major positive impact on all other 16 SDGs.

“There is nothing more important to life on this planet (that has a limited supply) than water. Water is our most valuable resource. It is used for drinking, cooking and the manufacture of almost everything from paper to medicine, to underpinning agriculture and generating electricity,” says Miles Murray, director: Business Development, Veolia Services Southern Africa.

However, many of the water sources are under severe stress. The UN estimates that two billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity by 2025.

A further two-thirds of the world’s population will be facing water shortages. In addition to losing access to these water resources, water demand is rapidly rising. It is projected to increase 55% by 2050 – this includes a 400% rise in demand to maintain manufacturing processes.

This unsettling situation is compounded further by climate change. As worldwide weather and water patterns continue to be altered, there are more frequent water shortages, droughts and flooding.


“Without intervention, the future of our water resources is bleak. Urgent and decisive action is needed today. At Veolia Southern Africa, we have always believed that innovation advances water sustainability and improves resilience. Veolia uses its 160-years history to help achieve SDG 6,” adds Murray.

Desalination: These technologies and processes have improved water security for tens of thousands of people by turning to the only consistently available water source – the ocean.

Veolia designs, constructs, commissions and operates large-scale seawater desalination plants to meet each community’s unique water needs. Desalinated seawater can also be used by companies for industrial processes. Desalination increases the availability of freshwater in areas where it is scarce.

“We have had several local seawater desalination plant successes. A few of our desalination plants are in Knysna, Lambert’s Bay, Plettenberg Bay and Mossel Bay in the Western Cape, as well as in Cannon Rocks in the Eastern Cape,” states Murray.

Water reuse: Water reuse can play a crucial role in achieving SDG 6 by contributing to increased water availability, improved sanitation, sustainable water management and climate change adaptation.

According to Murray, the famed Durban Water Recycling Project was commissioned in 2001, where Veolia was awarded a 20-year operations and maintenance contract. It has recently been renewed.

“Presently, the plant treats domestic and industrial wastewater to near potable standards for sale to industrial customers for direct use in their processes. It is South Africa’s first water reuse plant and one of the first water-related public-private partnerships of its kind.”

Wastewater treatment: The mining and metals industry is among the most water-intensive industrial sectors in the world. The average South African gold mine uses approximately one tonne of water for every tonne of rock broken. This is more than 4 000 litres of water every second.

Due to these significant consumption quantities, limited sources of underground water, the high cost of surface water supplies and environmental problems related to the already expensive effluents, the mining industry is under massive pressure to use water sparingly.

“We help customers reduce their water needs while enabling productivity gains by establishing a circular economy. Every process unit of a metals plant – raw materials, operational units (like
furnaces and kilns), discharge units and refineries – processes water and creates wastewater. This wastewater can either be reused, repurposed or must be treated to a certain standard before it is discharged,” states Murray.

By doing this, Veolia helps mining companies and other industries reduce their effects on the environment.
Treating industrial effluent before discharge into water bodies reduces the pollutants released.

Water efficiency: Close to 41% of potable water in South Africa is lost or unaccounted for due to leaks, theft and inaccurate metering systems. Addressing this problem will reduce water losses and can help South Africa attain SDG 6. Veolia can help municipalities reduce the loss of revenue through the targeted renewal and optimisation of all meters and permanent remote monitoring of water losses.

Veolia can also minimise high-cost surface water ‘municipal feed’ supply to process units through chemical and hydrodynamic water
conditioning proficiency.


“Veolia Services Southern Africa is truly committed to achieving the SDGs and we are one of the few companies that does not approach them from a narrow perspective. We closely assess our up- and downstream impacts. For instance, we evaluate our supply chain and make sure that our procurement in sustainable. We view water as ‘blue gold’ and are committed and will continue to contribute to all SDGs wherever water is involved,” concludes Murray.

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