Why invest in water and sanitation

Access to clean, fresh water is a basic human need and is essential for good health. The World Health Organisation attributes the  spread of many infectious diseases and high mortality rates in some areas to contaminated water supplies. There is a need for improved technologies and models that can provide clean, safe, drinkable water through water desalination plants, purification plants, and improved sanitation facilities. 

Building and Maintaining Infrastructure

The building and maintaining water infrastructure model includes resource planning; building and upkeep of large dams, waste water and water treatment plants; development of hydropower facilities; maintenance and development of water conveyance and distribution; stormwater management;  transportation and storage of fresh water supplies; and safe and contained sewerage systems.

There are many challenges involved in the provision of piped utility water and safe sanitation systems, especially in rural areas. Existing infrastructure maintenance becomes more challenging as pipelines and sewerage systems age and start to leak. This leakage can lead to the loss of vast amounts of precious water supplies and can also lead to contamination of drinking waterExisting systems are struggling to keep up with the increased demand for piped water and sanitation. This puts further strain on the provision of maintenance of existing infrastructure. 

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The education model focuses on a variety of topics such as the effects of water pollution on the ecosystem, human health and disease prevention; efficiency in agriculture and food production; and the importance of water conservation. Education helps people to understand their role in the water cycle which can empower them to take action and find sustainable solutions for localised water resource issues.

WASH (Water and Sanitation and Hygiene) education attempts to create awareness by changing people’s attitudes and behaviour towards more efficient, sustainable water use and healthy hygiene habits. It often (but not always) has a strong youth focus, in an attempt to provide young people with an understanding of future sustainable development.

Cape Town ran extensive, and highly successful, water conservation campaigns during the recent drought. In 2018, the Department of Education also launched an initiative to promote hygiene and sanitation to over 15 000 grade one learners across South Africa.

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Environmental models

Environmental models focus on various water quality challenges such as combating the effects of global warming, wastewater management, clearing of alien vegetation, reducing pollution, and encouraging conservation efforts. If left unchecked, environmental issues can have dire knock-on effects such as stalling economic progress, reducing food production and affecting human potential. Positive environmental changes can be brought about by increased awareness through conservation efforts, prevention via strategies like the clearing of alien vegetation, and effective wastewater management.

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Integrated resource management

Integrated water resource management focusses on coordinating the management of water resources in order to maximise on economic and social welfare. This way, viable ecosystems can be maintained for future generations. The aim is to create a balance between providing social access for all, economic efficiency(by providing benefit to as many users as possible), and creating ecological sustainability by educating users to ensure that their ecosystems are not over-utilised. This model involves things like the development and implementation of multiple-use water systems, ensuring fair access to water, education on the effects of pollution and regular discussions with the various stakeholders.

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Supporting social enterprises

Social enterprises – organisations with business and social impact goals as the basis for their existence – are a good mechanism for bringing about long term social change because they can create sustainable opportunities while helping to empower the communities that they work with to take control of their environment. Social enterprises have typically developed in response to demand for freshwater by rural areas that are lacking in infrastructure. They attempt to reach out to consumers while also impacting the supply chain ethically. The success of these rural projects has often led to their roll-out to the under-serviced urban areas as well.

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