SA water outlook: risks aplenty, but golden opportunities too
28 February 2020 | Web Article Number: ME202018158
AS water scarcity and rising costs loom large, industry is starting to sit up and take note. That’s according to Helen Hulett, Strategic Director of Pietermaritzburg-based sustainable water and wastewater solutions company Talbot, speaking to key clients at an information session in Durban recently.
She added that many players have realised that for the economic sustainability of their businesses, emerging technologies must be embraced.
Hulett opened the Durban session and one held by the company in Johannesburg by quoting President Cyril Ramaphosa who recently noted in an open letter that South Africa’s water crisis would make the nation’s electricity problems look small.
Key risks identified by Talbot include increased water supply failures, double-digit tariff hikes and reduced investor confidence. Furthermore, communities and not industry would take priority in managing constrained supplies during ‘water shedding’.
She said the company was helping a growing number of users to take control of their water by identifying and implementing suitable technologies that reduce dependence on external water sources and at the same time increase their profitability, secure continued investment and achieve true business sustainably.
Attendees included leaders in mining and metals, food and beverages, forestry, pulp and paper, healthcare, FMCGs and cosmetics.
Talbot economist Mike Smith said the good news was that the 2020s would be a “golden era” for water, with many untapped opportunities thanks to rising innovation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“While the digital transformation has been slow in the industrial space, significant opportunity exists in the short-term for readily available and affordable technologies to assist with demand side efficiency improvements, water consumption and demand management,” Smith said.
“As industrial water users, the opportunity to get ahead of the pack is ripe. Sound sustainability choices and management practices make businesses all the more attractive to investors.”
Smith added that some commentators believe green-minded investors should be looking at water and wastewater projects in Africa and, in fact, some had already started.
“At Talbot, we are working with several financiers that already have the appropriate funds for green, water-focused projects. Wastewater from industry is an opportunity and by taking advantage of it, we will be making businesses more robust so that they can navigate the crisis we find ourselves in,” he said.