Why Our Water Innovation Is Informal & Local

African Context Are Being Developed To Treat Contaminated Surface Water Runoff From An Informal Settlement.

Why Our Water Innovation Is Informal & Local

Israel, The Middle East And South Africa Share A Common Fate Of Growing Water Scarcity In The Face Of Growing Water Demand And The Impact Of Climate Change On Water Availability.

One of the greatest challenges the two regions face is the large percentage of the population that lacks access to water and wastewater infrastructure. Lack of access or Informal intermittent access to drinking water, sewage treatment and disposal and energy impede these populations’ abilities to improve their socioeconomic situation miring them in poverty.

Lack of access to water is also a human rights issue, as water and sanitation are both considered basic human rights. In Israel, around 70,000 Bedouin in the Negev lack access to water, sewage and electricity grids, in the Palestinian West Bank up to 70% of the population disposes its sewage in unsanitary cesspits that contaminate the environment and pose a public health risk. In South Africa, accessing basic rights to safe water and sanitation is a daily struggle for working-class communities.

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Communal taps are shared by many people and are often far away from people’s homes, unrepaired leaks, water management devices, Informal billing and the lack of sanitation impact negatively on the quality of life for at least 25% of people in the country.

Conventional centralized water, desalination, wastewater and electricity solutions require enormous investments in capital expenditures in infrastructure involving complex private-public partnerships and government oversight. Unfortunately, therefore it is unlikely that such solutions will be forthcoming in alleviating this situation. On the other hand, decentralized or off the grid solutions are cheaper, more efficient and provide service to the community on site.

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At the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Israel, we are pioneering off the grid wastewater treatment and reuse systems that treat wastewater on-site directly from homes and neighborhoods that are not connected to a sewer grid. The treated wastewater is then recycled for the use in irrigation of small holder farms.

The system is powered solely by solar energy and is remotely operated and managed via a mobile application and Internet interface. The technology is currently being piloted in two Bedouin communities in Israel.

At the University of Cape Town’s Franschhoek Water Hub state-of-the-art techniques and technologies suitable for the off the grid. The availability of clean, safe, fit-for-purpose water is a catalyst for development and the alleviation of poverty.

On-site bio-filtration cells are proving to be capable of reducing elevated nutrient and bacteria levels so that water can be safely re-used for irrigating vegetables without harming the environment or human health, and without the addition of chemicals in the treatment process. The Water Hub is showcasing the value of decentralized, passive technologies in advancing new knowledge in the food-energy-water nexus and the extent to which we have underestimated the power of nature-based solutions.

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What these two examples illustrate is the needed paradigm shift in water management. Most of the world’s population is off the grid. Expensive large-scale and centralized water solutions are unlikely to solve the majority of the world’s water woes.

We therefore advocate and encourage innovative and creative solutions to solve these problems at the community level. The technologies and expertise exist, what is needed is governmental support and oversight for decentralized water-energy-food solutions where the community is not just a passive consumer or beneficiary but an active partner in the solution. In this way, true sustainable water management can take root.

This news was originally published at jpost.com

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