(This article was first published on 7 April 2018 in the Weekend Argus, a weekly regional newspaper distributed in the Western Cape, South Africa.)

Yazeed Kamaldien

Locals should cash in on the water crisis as it has given rise to a multi-billion rand industry, provincial minister of economic opportunities Alan Winde said yesterday.

“We should never waste a good crisis. Now is the time for businesses and residents to invest in their own water resilience to ensure that we continue to grow the economy, secure the jobs we already have, and create more going forward,” said Winde.

Since the start of this year the water crisis – a result of annual drought in the Western Cape and delayed water augmentation plans – has seen locals spend more money on bottled water.

Water related product sales also soared as locals feared the arrival of Day Zero, an estimated date the City of Cape Town touted as the day when the city’s municipal taps would run dry.

Day Zero has since been pushed back to next year and its city-led champions have been criticised for using it to spread fear and panic.

Uncertainty still remains though about the city’s long-term water security. City officials have contracted companies to provide water desalination services – but for only two years.

Winde meanwhile said GreenCape’s 2018 Water Market Intelligence Report (MIR) published this week “shows us the value of those (water-related) opportunities”.

GreenCape is a “non-profit organisation that drives the widespread adoption of economically viable green economy solutions from the Western Cape”.

“We work with businesses, investors, academia and government to help unlock the investment and employment potential of green technologies and services, and to support a transition to a resilient green economy,” it claims.

GreenCape’s report listed various money-making opportunities in the manufacturing and supply of water related technologies and services, including:

  • Growing private sector demand for smart water metering systems as a tool for improved water management.
  • New residential and commercial property developments in the province are a key market for water efficient devices and greywater reuse systems, presenting a potential market of R900m per year.
  • Municipalities are increasingly interested in potable water reuse of their municipal wastewater. In Cape Town there is a potential market of almost R2bn.
  • There are a number of opportunities relating to groundwater and rainwater systems across all private sector markets. The potential residential market in the Western Cape could be worth R5.8bn.
  • Large-scale seawater desalination is an emerging market that presents a number of opportunities for investors. The potential market in the City of Cape Town is around R3bn.
  • The potential market for Water Consumption and Water Demand Management (WCWDM) projects that reduce non-revenue water in South African metros is estimated at R2bn a year, of which R500m is unfunded.
  • Water reuse in the industrial sector presents opportunities for both technology and service providers. The total gross value added (GVA) for moderate and highly water intense users in the WC in 2016, excluding agriculture, was R155bn in 2017.

Winde’s department also pointed out there has been in the last year a “significant growth in demand for boreholes, well points and water treatment systems in the Western Cape”.

“Rainwater systems have also been in huge demand, with Western Cape based tank manufacturers reporting that they are booked up in advance, with supply being sought from elsewhere in the country,” said the department.

“GreenCape identifies opportunities in the design, supply, and installation of cost effective rainwater harvesting systems for use indoors such as toilet flushing and for laundries.”

GreenCape also states in its report that South Africa would need to invest up to R70.4-billion a year in water infrastructure investment for the next decade to ensure water security nationwide.

The national water and sanitation department has confirmed that South Africa is “one of the 30 driest countries in the world”.

Its various interventions include “desalination, groundwater optimisation, water conservation and demand management and re-use optimisation”.

The City of Cape Town has said its water augmentation projects would cost R5,6-billion and has allocated a chunk of this year’s budget to these. This includes operational desalination plants and aquifer projects.

GreenCape chief executive Mike Mulcahy said their research showed “municipalities are looking to procure alternative supplies, such as large-scale desalination, and to invest in water conservation and demand management measures”.

He added: “The water crisis has driven the adoption of water technology in the private sector with significant growth seen in the commercial and residential sectors.”