The Water Research Commission gives suggestions for companies to address the challenge of access to sanitation in informal and rural communities.
It is estimated that there are more than 2700 informal settlements in South Africa and approximately 13% of the South Africa population lives in these informal settlements (Danti, N. Critical assessment of right to safe water and sanitation in a South African informal settlement: a case study of Marikana, Cape Town. 2018.). Access to safe sanitation is a growing challenge in informal settlements and in most instances, the informal settlements are served with ablution blocks, chemical toilets, VIPs or unimproved pit latrines. This presents an opportunity for companies to spend their corporate social investment budgets providing sanitation and bringing dignity to needy communities.
There are innovative solutions that can contribute to addressing the challenge of access to sanitation in informal and rural communities. These can provide full on-site sanitation solutions which include generation and containment, as well as treatment of waste in areas without access to sewer systems and limited water supplies. These inventions can be suited to residential consumers, schools, public spaces, commercial settings and clinics. Water Research Commission (WRC) is currently demonstrating some of these innovative sanitation solutions in the informal settlement of Johannesburg in Soweto, namely the Clear and NEWgenerator full recycle toilets, which are briefly discussed below.
The Clear recycle toilet system in Soweto, Mofolo North informal settlement
The Clear system uses bacteria to biodegrade the organic pollutants contained in wastewater and then the wastewater is treated within a membrane biological reactor which separates the pollutants. The treated water is then disinfected using an ultraviolet process before being recirculated for flushing purposes.
NEWgenerator recycle toilet system in Soweto, Slovovile informal settlement
The system uses an anaerobic baffled reactor design followed by a nanomembrane filter. Permeate from the filter is treated for reuse as flushing water by electrochemical chlorine production from table salt. The front-end unit consists of a toilet that uses recycled water and potable water for handwashing.
Benefits of full recycle toilet systems
- Recovers and re-uses water (closed loop system)
- Can be set up off-grid (no connection to water, sewer and electricity)
- Provides full flushing sanitation solution
- No need for reticulation infrastructure
CSI budget expenditure in water and sanitation
According to Trialogue’s research, South African companies spent an estimated R10.3 billion on corporate social investment (CSI) in 2021 and about R52,53 million was spent on water and sanitation projects. WRC believes that companies can contribute to bringing dignity to communities around their operations through their CSI budgets. Corporates are encouraged to adopt these full recycle toilet systems, especially in areas with little water or where sewer systems are not feasible. Through the South African Sanitation Technology Enterprise Program (SASTEP), WRC is able to offer advisory support for companies interested in taking up these innovative sanitation technologies as part of their corporate social investment.