Challenges and solutions in the water and wastewater treatment industry in Africa

Challenges and solutions in Water and Wastewater Treatment industry in Africa
Nick Nicholas; Application Engineer and Technical Director for Genesis Water Technologies, Inc

Construction Review had a an exclusive interview with Nick Nicholas, the Application Engineer/Technical Director for Genesis Water Technologies, Inc, a global leader in integrated solutions for drinking water & waste water treatment.

In this role and previous roles with GWT, Mr. Nicholas has coordinated and led a global team of technical professionals in designing and building custom built water & waste water treatment system solutions for industrial, commercial, and municipal clients within the USA and across the world.

1. How does Genesis Water see the African Water & Wastewater Treatment market?

The increasing population growth and the expansion of industrial development have led to growing water scarcity across Africa. This combined with deficient drinking water & sanitation services, represents critically important challenges, especially in regions across sub-Saharan Africa.

Grey water and wastewater reclamation is a promising approach to reducing water scarcity in Africa. This process serves as a motivating force for improved sanitation services and the protection of the environment by treating wastewater and redeploying this treated water for the benefit of applications including irrigation, agriculture and other non-potable applications.

Genesis Water Technologies, an innovative US based global water & wastewater engineering Solutions Company, sees the African water treatment market striving closer to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) established by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Access to sustainable and safe drinking water and sanitation is very important to meeting millennium challenge development goals. For many countries in Africa, an extensive effort is required in order to meet these millennium development goals.

Current sustainable practices for water & wastewater treatment across Africa are typically insufficient to ensure safe water and basic sanitation. One of the main challenges to address this insufficiency is to develop a structure that can assist in the integration of technological solutions and social impact management efforts to enhance the water education of the citizens of municipalities and private sector clients within Africa as well.

2. Which are the most popular wastewater treatment methods being applied in Africa currently?

Some of the common yet antiquated and inefficient wastewater treatment methods include activated sludge treatment, combined trickling filter plant and stabilization ponds, which are most popular. This is currently being appropriately phased out and replaced over time with more advanced and sustainable technologies including moving bed bioreactor technology (MBBR), specialized electrocoagulation and the utilization of tertiary wastewater filtration with ultraviolet disinfection. All of these technologies are designed, engineered, integrated and supplied Genesis Water Technologies.

The drinking water methods most common in treating predominantly groundwater and to a lesser degree surface water include using some sort of physical /chemical process followed by disinfection using chlorine.

These drinking water methods are not sustainable any longer, especially for water with any contamination such as mineral contamination, microbiological contamination which causes waterborne disease or water contaminated with heavy metals or other organics and chemicals such as hydrocarbons.

3. What are the challenges in the African market in terms of installation and maintenance?

– Training & Educational Awareness

It is imperative to provide training on the operation and maintenance of the water and wastewater treatment facilities. Without proper training the facilities cannot work optimally. In all cases qualified and efficient operators and managers can ensure the smooth operations of these facilities in both private and public sector applications.

There would also be the establishment of maintenance mechanisms/protocols to enable the facility to run sustainably.

Educational awareness is necessary to promote public awareness on the link between water and energy, water and health, as well as water conservation to enable greater societal impact, economic impact, and a reduction of disease associated with drinking water and the damage to the surrounding environment in which populations live across this continent.

In certain public sector cases with appropriate public sector regulation and support, a public/private partnership (PPP) can be established; in this case, private sector experience can augment, train and work hand in hand with municipalities and government agencies to operate effectively.

– Political Will

In Africa, the water sector has not had the investment and regulations required to allow for sustainable clean drinking water and efficient wastewater treatment. However, more recently as the effects of water scarcity and water borne diseases have become more apparent, this is looking to change.

It is strongly advised, on a governmental level, to establish good governance with an improved institutional framework and mechanism to avoid the lack of political will and commitment for water and wastewater treatment in light of these issues of water resource scarcity.

The regulatory authorities shall also initiate and enforce legislation framework and rules to require industries to establish on‐site pre‐treatment facilities, reducing the burden on existing municipal treatment plants.

In addition, municipalities with less dense urban populations shall have the implementation of decentralized drinking water or wastewater treatment which would be more economically feasible and sustainable than a large centralized treatment approach in these locations.

The management of drinking water quality, wastewater discharge, and frankly solid waste disposal need to be improved significantly. This is a challenge to be overcome with the proper expertise, guidance, procedures and execution plan in place.

– Establishment of Labs Suitable for Testing Water Quality to WHO guidelines and standards

Many African countries have adopted the use of World Health Organization (WHO) standards for drinking water quality and for wastewater treatment discharge. However, the lack of proper monitoring instrumentation and lab analysis equipment leads to the inability to test water that is compliant with WHO standards.

Therefore, in order to provide better plant maintenance and governance that will not jeopardize the health of people or the function of critical equipment these new analytical equipment procedures will need implementation.

 4. What do you think can be done to overcome these challenges?

Each of these challenges identified above, will need to be handled one by one.

In regard to training & educational awareness, this can be accomplished through working with governmental and UN agencies including (Water/Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) to consult with them to provide better awareness penetration of improved of presenting the societal impacts of clean water and hygiene practices.

Implementation of certain rules and regulations which apply to industries that awards industrial users that exceed compliance standards to World Health Organization guidelines and fine those users that do not comply with strict fines.

Introduction of innovative technologies for both decentralized drinking water & wastewater treatment based on geographic location in Africa

This would be in addition to the implementation of retrofits for existing centralized treatment plants to make them more efficient, reliable and sustainable. Genesis Water Technologies has utilized this framework to assist our private and public sector clients in Africa to overcome these challenges and meet the required WHO guideline standards.

5. What are some applicable innovative water & wastewater technologies that can improve sustainability and the effects of water scarcity in Africa?

– Water Reuse Technologies/Desalination

– Groundwater Purification utilizing cost effective electrochemistry

– Efficient decentralized onsite sanitation

– Retrofit of Centralized Water Treatment Systems utilizing new biological processes and chemical free wastewater discharge

– Solar Grid Powered Water Purification Systems

– Solid Waste to Energy Systems (Utilizing Landfill plastic waste to provide power to Water or Wastewater Treatment Plants and potentially to the power grid)

6. Does Genesis Water have any future plans for Africa?

Genesis Water Technologies has a multi-faceted plan for Africa with a focus on the huge societal impact of clean drinking water and sustainable wastewater treatment and reuse on communities throughout Africa.

This plan encompasses both a focus on working with large private sector commercial/industrial clients in strategic countries in North Africa and Sub Saharan Africa as well as public sector clients through the strategic implementation of public/private partnerships in African countries with appropriate regulatory framework to support such mutual investments for mutual success.

Access to clean water will be one of the defining issues of the coming decades in Africa and throughout the world. Genesis Water Technologies is on the cutting edge of innovation in water, partnering with governmental agencies and private sector clients and implementation partners across Africa to execute this mission.

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