Sustainable water resource development and desalination-integrated water management challenges in South Africa

Millar, Joanne (2012) Sustainable water resource development and desalination-integrated water management challenges in South Africa. (MSc(R) thesis), Kingston University, .


South Africa's conventional water resources are straining to sustain national water demands and undermine future development aspirations that aim to provide a better life for all. Severe drought conditions in the Western Cape Province in 2009/2010 were a catalyst to the rapid development of desalination facilities aimed at meeting domestic water demands and providing long term water security. Desalination is a relatively new technology in South Africa to augment domestic water supply. The research investigated four new desalination plants in the Eden District Municipality of the Western Cape Province to understand the decision-making processes promoting desalination-integration, their operational experiences to date, and evaluate their sustainability from an environmental, economic and social perspective. The research was conducted in-situ between 2010 and 2012 and synthesised stakeholder interview information with emergent secondary data concerning the sustainability performance of the four plants. The results from the four sites identify best practices, contested development concerns, conflict resolutions and assess their long term sustainability. The case study results demonstrate that sustainable integration of desalination is possible in South Africa provided appropriate development protocols, environmental considerations such as energy concerns and economic considerations are addressed openly and the benefits are fair and equitable to the community as a whole. The case studies exemplify the benefits of having appropriate financial forecasting and price-plans in place, environmental monitoring and mitigation practices, the use of best available technologies in the desalination design and operations. Desalination has the potential to support environmental recovery through the reclamation and re-use of return flows and can ease the burden on overexploited groundwater and surface water resources. Desalination fosters a perception of water security that has brought confidence to water dependent developments and business (including the government's development strategy and urban renewal programme; Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) development). The case studies exemplify important lessons for scaling-up and using deslaination more widely to meet water scarcity in South Africa.

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