The feasibility of augmenting the Stellenbosch potable water supply by establishing a direct potable reuse plant

Master Thesis


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The Western Cape has suffered severe droughts over the past decade which has placed severe strain on raw water resources for both agriculture and municipal use. The crisis was due to many factors including climate change, increasing urbanisation and ageing infrastructure to name a few. The water scarcity problems will persist in the future globally unless water management authorities are able to augment existing raw water resources with a mix of desalination, groundwater and reclamation of treated effluent. The town of Stellenbosch was selected as part of a case study to determine the feasibility of implementing a direct potable reuse (DPR) plant to augment the future water resource mix from a technical, social, environmental and economic standpoint. Over the past two decades there has been a global shift towards direct and indirect potable reuse schemes to augment existing surface and groundwater resources. The shift has been accelerated by advances in treatment technology, water quality monitoring and research which have reduced the costs of potable reuse when compared to conventional water resources. The effluent from the Stellenbosch Wastewater Treatment Works was investigated as a reliable raw feed water source for the Stellenbosch DPR Plant. The Stellenbosch DPR Plant treatment train followed the multiple barrier approach to ensure high quality product water and mitigate potential risks to human health. The process design favoured granular activated carbon filtration instead of reverse osmosis due to the lower costs, inland location and brine disposal issues along with the acceptable total dissolved salt levels within the source water. The process design was developed further to determine the energy consumption, chemical consumption and process monitoring and control framework for the plant. A technical feasibility was done on three scenarios which were selected based on mix of reclaimed water and current surface water resources to supply the town of Stellenbosch with potable water. Scenario A – ‘do-nothing’ approach whereby the Stellenbosch Municipality would continue to be supplied with bulk raw water from the Theewaterskloof Dam treat it at the Paradyskloof WTW Scenario B – DPR Plant which produced potable water and injected it upstream of the Paradyskloof WTW Scenario C - DPR Plant which produced potable water and injected it downstream of the Paradyskloof WTW The research found that it would be feasible to implement a DPR scheme in Stellenbosch to improve the towns’ water security to meet future demands. The technical, social and environmental issues introduced in this research would need to be considered and developed further once a decision was made to pursue DPR. The unit costs of DPR would be higher than expanding the current raw surface water allocation and conventional water treatment works, which would have a knock-on effect on consumer tariffs. These economic costs would need to be compared to the towns risk exposure to climate change and water demands from surrounding areas within the Western Cape should they continue to abstract water from surface water resource not under their control.