Posts tagged Centrifugaltoilet
Thinking about alternative mitigation approaches
Biosphere team and volunteers

Biosphere team and volunteers

Our planet is in urgent need to develop sustainable methodologies and emission-reduction programs for food production, energy production, wastewater treatment... you name it! Often emission-reduction programs lack the ability to boost economic growth, which is the first priority for most of the developing countries. However, societies and communities are increasingly moving from conventional methods to produce and discharge goods to more into resource recovery -based models and waste-to-energy type of systems to avoid and reduce negative impacts of the changing climates. Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve as an environmental organisation tackles both, climate change adaptation, and mitigation measures.

In my studies I mainly focus on water management and treatment, so once I heard about Cape Town’s water crisis I knew I would have to go see how the situation is and what I could do for helping the locals. One student from my University had done his research internship at Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve the previous year, so I quickly emailed the organisation and got a positive response. Soon we skyped about the topic of my research and thought that I could work with a Swedish wastewater treatment technology, called Aquatron, and test it in South African conditions. The CEO had done some background research on the technology for years and this created a perfect opportunity to start to examine the system.

Soon after moving to South Africa I found out, that problems with the existing South Africa’s wastewater treatment system are diverse. The wastewater treatment plants are lacking capacity due to the growing population, as well as lack of financial support and maintenance. Another serious problem in South Africa is the vast amount of untreated wastewater that is discharged into the environment, especially wastewater effluent from townships and informal settlements. Many of the areas are not connected to the sewage system, which causes pollution and eutrophication in the majority of the rivers and other water reservoirs. Thus, the goal of the research was mainly to build an alternative sanitation system to the current water crisis in Western Cape to reduce pollution and overall water quality risks.

In addition to this, we also decided to expand the system with a greenhouse, aquaponics, and a vertical garden. First, the wastewater from a toilet, kitchen, and shower flows into the greenhouse, where Aquatron is placed. From there it continues first to aquaponics, and finally to the vertical garden. Furthermore, a constant flow vertical garden was built to offer a solution for local food production, especially in high density areas. Aquaponics in different sizes can be used for food production, but also as storage tanks for treated wastewater. With solar water pumps, the constant water flow system prevents eutrophication and other unwanted nutrient accumulation and bacterial growth.

The first order for 100 Aquatrons was made this year and a video of a panel discussion with various experts will be published soon! Aquatron program offers a solution to the current water crisis, and it will make a huge contribution to the CWBR and other community projects and generate regular income. Instead of relying on emission-reduction efforts, this alternative proposes a technology that locally treats wastewater and can increase economic and social development.

I want to thank CWBR for making it possible for me to visit South Africa, learn about the beautiful nature and cultures there and most importantly conduct a research that has a great potential to help to mitigate the drought. Here is a short video of my stay and the Aquatron project:

Aquatron briefly

Aquatron separates liquids from solids without any moving parts or chemicals. This is accepted worldwide as the most sustainable water toilet principle.

The toilet is connected to Aquatron, which separates the excrement and treats liquids with UV light. The water further continues to aquaponics where the water is organically post-treated, and plants use the nutrients as fertilizers to grow food and feed local citizens. The water is then pumped up to a vertical garden to maximise food production. After this the water flows back to the aquaponics. Once the circular system is fully functional, the system will be removed from the municipal grid, and the system works as closed, constant flow system.

To prove the system functionality, water quality analysis were made at Stellenbosch University WA lab, where Heterotrophic P/C per 1ml at 35°C, Total coliforms per 100ml, Faecal coliforms per 100ml, and E.coli per 100ml, as the general water quality indicators, were examined.

Once the separator and the UV unit were perfectly levelled, and the pipes’ inclinations were checked properly, this resulted in drinkable water quality. The wastewater treatment system was proved to work in South African conditions if properly installed and is a recommendable solution for the current toilet systems in informal settlements, mid- to high-income households, and companies.

Does water come from a tap?

The Biosphere Reserve, invited by Frandevco, got involved with the educational component of the river clean-up program in Franschhoek today. Three-hundred youth listened to a lively interactive talk aimed to create awareness of where water comes from and what they can do to keep the river in their neighborhood clean. Why it gets dirty.

First to further spread the seed…

To grow the seed - it needs sun and water to grow, and birds to further spread new seed. Equals Love.  

Where does water come from?

How does it become dirty?

How do we keep it clean?

Lets get more kids excited about water and where it comes from!

Where Do You Think Water Fits Into Your Life? When did you last bath?

With the continued lack of rainfall in the middle of a drought season, the dams in the Western Cape are critically low and water restrictions are becoming severe.

To ease the pressure on the water supply, a repeat of last year, Day Zero has been introduced and has steadily been moved forward as the situation is being regulated through water restrictions by the municipality.

The estimated date of Day Zero is based on the consumption of the six big dams that feed Cape Town and the Western Cape Area. It is calculated by the daily estimated water consumption from the previous week. Currently Day Zero falls on the 9th of July 2018.  

An overall of 44 main dams feed to whole Western Province.

Cape Town, which is continually expanding and the population steadily increasing, has been the most severely hit and talked about concerning the implementation of Water Restrictions and long-term solutions to prevent future scarcity of water.

In the Franschhoek Area, the Berg River Dam has a reported storage level of 52.3 %, dropping 0.01% since last week. However, just on the other side of Franschhoek Pass, Theewaterskloof Dam, has a current storage level of 11%, having dropped from 11.7% last week.

The following information on Water Level Restrictions comes from the Western Cape Government Website. These are the current levels of water restrictions reported:

Current water restrictions for Western Cape Municipalities  

·       Beaufort West Municipality - level 4B

·       Bergrivier Municipality - level 2

·       Bitou Municipality - level 1

·       Breede Valley Municipality - level 3B

·       Cederberg Municipality - level 2

·       Cape Agulhas Municipality -  level 1

·       City of Cape Town -  level 6B 

·       Drakenstein Municipality - level 6 

·       George Municipality - level 2B

·       Hessequa Municipality - level 1

·       Kannaland Municipality - level 3

·       Knysna Municipality - level 3

·       Laingsburg Municipality - level 1

·       Langeberg Municipality - level 2

·       Matzikama Municipality - level 2

·       Mossel Bay Municipality - no restrictions

·       Overstrand Municipality - level 1

·       Oudtshoorn Municipality - no restrictions

·       Prince Albert Municipality - level 1

·       Saldanha Municipality - level 5 

·       Stellenbosch Municipality - level 5 

·       Swartland Municipality - level 5 

·       Swellendam Municipality - no restrictions

·       Theeswaterskloof Municipality - level 3

·       Witzenberg Municipality - level 4

Go to the above website for more information and to check out the update on dam levels in the Western Cape by selecting a dam on the displayed map on their website supplied by the national Department of Water and Sanitation.

This drought has been an amazing awareness campaign for the future on how ecosystems services play such an important role not just in our domestic homes but in industry as well. Ecosystem services look after us, we must learn to look after them.


Droughts and wildfires causing biggest threats to Western Cape

Mimetes hottentoticus. Mimetes species form part of Fynbos, a fire-adapted flora.

IUCN, The International Union for Conservation of Nature, published a World Heritage Outlook 2 -report this week stating that invasive plant species cause increased intensity of wildfires and drying in Western Cape. The report assesses the threats climate change poses to Natural World Heritage sites.

Natural World Heritage sites affected by climate change have almost doubled in three years. The report was published at the UN climate conference in Bonn, Germany.

Cape Floral Region Protected Areas World Heritage site is amongst the list of assessed areas. The status of the region was assessed as “Good with some concerns”. Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve covers 322,030 ha of a total of 553,000 ha of the World Heritage site.  

According to the report, the main problems within the CFRPA are “aggressively invasive plant species and the resulting increased intensity of wildfires”. The alien plants, especially in Fynbos ecosystems, disrupt the catchment water retention and promote unnecessary wildfires. Wildfire is a naturally occurring phenomenon, but fire frequency and drying increase as climate change stimulates the growth of invasive, woody plants. This also plays a major role in Western Cape’s critical water shortages.

Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve has taken action towards climate change mitigation (removal and prevention of greenhouse gas emissions) and adaptation (reduction of negative impacts in social and biological systems).


CWBR has several projects to reforest riparian zones along the river banks by propagating indigenous trees.


CWBR’s number one response to climate change adaptation is water conservation. The Biosphere Reserve is currently researching how Aquatron, an ecological wastewater purification system works, and how water can be circulated and recycled in the system. The goal is mainly to offer a solution for informal settlements, but also elsewhere.  


IUCN report assessed education and interpretation programs to be “Effective” within CFRPA, and CWBR certainly believes in the importance of these programmes. Raising awareness is the key component for informed decision making, and education also increases climate change adaptation and mitigation capacities of communities.

Rivers under threat

Within the CWBR are the sources of seven major rivers as well as many tributaries.  The mighty Berg, Breede, Palmiet, Eerste, Riviersonderend, Lourens, Kuils, Sir Lowry’s and the Du Toits are some of the rivers which are the bloodline to Cape Town as well as all the towns in the CWBR.

Without them there would be no drinking water, irrigation water, water reliant industry, swimming pools, showers, fish tanks, water to fill your radiator, water your garden or even take a bath. No fire hoses, dams to fish on, water to ski on, have you hair done, wash your car or make beer, wine or brandy, there would be no trout to eat, and in fact we would probably not be here.

They are without a doubt our prime resource, and yet we treat them with so little respect.

 "The E-coli count is sometimes so high that it's an absolute danger to people who consume the water," Democratic Alliance MP Wilhelm le Roux told members 2005

We spend fortunes making the water potable, and then proceed to flush it down the toilet to end up back in the river again. The CWBR believes that there needs to be a paramount shift in people’s attitude around rivers, and that education is the most powerful tool to address this. This is one of the reasons that the CWBR concentrates a major portion of its resources addressing the youth, from preschool to tertiary levels.

It is not only the youth that need to made aware of the consequences of river pollution;

Berg River pollution imperils Cape 
Cape Town - If pollution of the Berg River, the lifeblood of the Western Cape, was not brought under control, South Africa's fruit, vegetable and wine exports to the EU and the US would be in danger, the Cape Regional Chamber has warned... InternAfrica

As the population increased in the Cape, so did the related problems. To control the sand dunes, hackia was planted; to tan hides, wattle was imported; alien pines and eucalyptus were imported as building material once our local timbers were depleted. This had major effects on our water sources, which we now need to tackle.

Many Western Cape farmers depend on water from the Berg River for irrigation, but due to pollution and alien vegetation, the quality of water has deteriorated to such an extent that R300 million is needed to clear the river. This is a daunting, but not impossible, task, believes Francis Steyn of the Western Cape Agriculture Department 2011 -- Farmers Weekly

The CWBR now works hand in hand with Landcare, a section of the Department of Agriculture and will be propagating indigenous trees, at The Ultimate Living Centre to reforest the riparian zones along the river banks.

Many believe that the problem of pollution will go away by itself after each major rainfall, but dilution is not the solution.

E. coli counts behaved differently compared to other water quality parameters in that higher counts were identified during wet weather conditions compared to dry conditions. Rainfall events increased the count of E. coli in the study area in combination with faecal pollution that runs off surfaces in informal settlements Mgese, Sivile University of Cape Town 2010

As the world trend of migration to urban areas continues, so does the problem of providing essential services in unplanned informal settlements.

The lack of sanitation for poor residents, many who are still on the bucket system, or having to walk several hundred meters to the nearest toilet, is one of the major problems.

Bucket contents are often disposed of directly into storm water drains, which bypass the sewerage system and goes directly into our rivers.

The main problem in the Western Cape is informal settlements. The influx of people has led to a massive backlog in provision of housing and basic services. - Business Report

E coli counts of 5000 to 2,400 million have been recorded, which is dangerous and could create a public health risk.

In order to address these problems, the CWBR believes that they have to be curtailed at source not once they are in the main rivers. It is therefore imperative that the resources of the World network of Biosphere Reserves should be consulted to see how other parts of the world are solving similar problems.

The protection of water resources is not just the function of Government or municipalities, but of every single person, no matter where they live or what their occupation is. The effects of jobs losses both in industry and in agriculture, should exports be affected by poor water quality, are immeasurable.

It will affect everyone.

But there is fantastic work being done to tackle the problems and bring them under control.

  • The CWBR is developing the Sewerage to Tree program , which is investigating how mini sewerage works can recycle water into tree nurseries within informal settlements

  • Cape Town City council has the 110% Green program, bringing private and business partnerships together.

  • Bio-mimicry SA is working with John Todd and has designed a holistic water treatment system using natural cleansing methods.

  • Biosphere Reserves together with Working for Water and the Department of Agriculture have several projects preserving river banks

  • New legislation has been brought out banning any development within 32 meters of a river bank.

  • There are numerous companies within the CWBR installing sewerage systems and water recycling units on their farms and in factories

These are just a few of the efforts taking place.

There is definitely light at the end of the tunnel.