Don’t Freak Out: Government Plans To Turn Acid Mine Drainage Into Drinkable Water System


Thousands have lived without love, not one without water. We all need water to survive and thrive just like every other living thing. Water is profoundly an absolute necessity to we all. It is a requisite that one cannot do with out. But somehow, South Africans are less willing to acknowledge the worth of water even when the well is dry, and have persistently chosen not to be water wise.

Thus we’ve used water carelessly and wasted it, have polluted rivers with liquid and solid waste, have refused to pay for water services, have failed to conserve water and have generally disrespected it. A recent UN report stated that the world faces a 40 percent shortfall in water supply in 15 years due to urbanization, population growth and increasing demand for water for food production, energy and industry. Water scarcity is apparently a global problem, South Africa’s is however obviously the worst case scenario as the government is compelled to make plans that will turn acid mine drainage into water systems in order to avert the looming water crisis.

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Reporting this development, eNCA related that several water scientists have criticized the idea of treating acid mine drainage in order to make water safe and drinkable for the public. Arguing that “it’s economically and environmentally unsustainable, and will add to South Africa’s pollution woes.” With Water Policy Strategist, Professor Anthony Turton calling for an alternative plan.

Meanwhile, delegates at the Emerging Frontiers for Sustainable Water conference between South Africa, India and the United Kingdom hosted by the University of Johannesburg last month highlighted that water is increasingly becoming a key economic business risk. Dr Inga Jacobs of the Water Research Commission at the conference said water is an important natural resources driving the crucial aspect of energy generation in South Africa, and “is now a key economic business risk discussed in boardrooms, rather than the ‘green issue’ it has been categorized as previously.”

According to her, water for the first time “tops the charts for the highest global risk in terms of devastation, ahead of nuclear war or a global pandemic. In South Africa, we are dealing with quite a severe physical scarcity of water, but also an increasingly severe economic scarcity of water,” She said.

Also addressing the conference, Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, revealed that “South Africa will become drier in the next 30 years and that we lose close to 30% of our water in distribution systems. Meanwhile, we depend on water from an independent country, Lesotho. The effective utilization of water resources, as well as efficient management and reducing waste is at the center of the economy and politics of South Africa. No development can succeed without water.”

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Calling for new approaches to help confront these challenges, Professor Catherine Ngila, Head of the Department of Applied Chemistry at the University of Johannesburg stated that the “issues we face are partly due to water pollution from increased activity in the agriculture, mining, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and petroleum industries. These industries supply the demands of an increasing population. There is a growing need for developing and adopting new technologies to test and treat contaminated water and recycle waste water in an affordable manner.”

As uncovered, the nation escaped a water scarcity disaster in the late 19th century when the Water Works Commission appointed in 1895 to care for the frequent complaints concerning water, and proffer ways in which Johannesburg could be provided with good quality drinking water, commissioned a geologist by the name of Dr Draper to assist the Water Works Commission. The story relates that after searching on the farm Zuurbekom, Dr Draper found what everybody was looking for. He tied his handkerchief to the branch of a thorn-bush and arriving back in Johannesburg, told the Water Works Commission: “go to Zuurbekom, you will find my handkerchief tied to a tree, sink a bore hole there and you will find water, plenty of it.”

In all, turning acid mine drainage into drinkable water is likely to be the way out this time as it’s the option topping our government’s choice list.

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