Where have all the water “experts” come from?

Interesting how everyone has an opinion and solution to the water crisis in the Western Cape. Well, maybe everyone except the government? Any conversation in and around Cape Town will eventually touch on the price of JoJo tanks, grey water re-use, swimming pool covers and boreholes.

And isn’t it amazing how many companies suddenly specialize in water treatment systems? Incredible! It reminds me of a comment I heard a couple of years ago from a friend living in Stellenbosch. At the time he was struggling to finish construction of his new house, with builder after builder making empty (and expensive) promises. “Everyone with a bakkie and a cellphone is a master builder these days”. And so too, it seems, for water treatment in 2018.

Water treatment can be complex. Just take your swimming pool for example, one day beautiful and then overnight it turns murky and green. It has to do with all those dissolved salts and nutrients and chlorine levels and pH and alkalinity and algae and chemical stabilizers and rain and temperature changes. Or acid or soda ash or chlorine or top up with “fountain water” from the back of a truck and the balance changes and so does the water’s appearance.

In the swimming pool analogy we touched on the visible, i.e. what can be seen. But what about the invisible aspect? Say I want to use rain water or ground water in my house. What are the invisible things lurking in my water I need to be aware of? Without going into details, we can group water contaminants into three broad groups:

  1. suspended material (visible)
  2. dissolved minerals & metals (invisible)
  3. microbial contaminants (invisible)

Each requires a process for removal, whether it be filtration, precipitation, adsorption, desalination, disinfection, etc. And each process step comes with pro’s and con’s regarding complexity, footprint, capital cost, operating cost, byproduct production, etc. There is no “one step does all” solution in water treatment. Your water may appear clean, but remember: what is invisible can seriously harm you and your loved ones.

So you want to use your rain water from gutters, a well point or borehole water to replace municipal supply? Look for the “invisible” criteria in the contractor you want to appoint. Make sure you contact a water “expert” who has an understanding of and can demonstrate that they have a track record in dealing with removing the “invisible” from water. Any contractor worth their salt should look at the following:

  1. ask for a detailed water analysis
  2. advise where your water is non-compliant to SANS drinking water specifications
  3. specify a system which will specifically remove the problem species
  4. provide a mechanical and process guarantee
  5. be available for after-sales support

In the long run it really does pay to be safe when it comes to the quality of water you will be using in your home, office or factory.