An innovative water-conservation solution is now available in South Africa, following the recent opening of WaterSavr South Africa (SA), which will market a proprietary powder-based solution developed in the US by environmental technology company Flexible Solutions International.
The powder can be applied to any large body of water from a small boat or an automated spreader. Once applied, a thin film forms on the surface of the water, which then automatically spreads, thereby limiting the amount of water lost due to evaporation.
It comprises 90% hydrated lime and 10% cetyl and steryl alcohol, and has no negative effect on the environment. It is also completely biodegradable, disappearing after 48 hours to 72 hours.
Cetyl and steryl alcohol are commonly used in sunscreen, first aid cream and lipstick.
WaterSavr SA MD Doug Vinnicombe says the need for water conservation was significantly highlighted following the severe drought conditions that impacted on South Africa last year, resulting in eight provinces being declared disaster areas. He adds that local farmers were particularly affected during 2016, owing to the significant decline in crop yields.
Vinnicombe points out that one way to combat the effects of a drought is to develop new infrastructure to boost the water capacity of the local water network. However, developing time-consuming and costly infrastructure will not address the immediacy of an ongoing drought.
WaterSavr, however, can be applied with little to no infrastructure, and costs significantly less than developing fixed infrastructure, while preventing an average of between 20% to 30% of water being lost to evaporation.
“On a 3 000 ha dam, WaterSavr can save at least 18 000 kℓ/d from evaporation, which is equivalent to the average daily water use of about 73 000 households,” Vinnicombe says. “Furthermore, the cost involved in saving water through the use of Watersavr is less than any of the other limited options available – which is attractive in the face of otherwise catastrophic consequences of running out of water.”
While the product must be applied regularly, he points out that very little of the product is needed: “As an example, a heaped teaspoon of WaterSavr is all that is needed to treat a surface area the size of an Olympic-sized swimming pool, about 1 250 m2, and this works to reduce evaporation for three days before naturally biodegrading.”
The technology is internationally recognised and has been registered with a number of organisations, including the US Environmental Protection Agency, and has received an ANSI 60 certification from public health and safety organisation, the National Sanitation Foundation. The certification is given to chemicals that are used in potable water with no adverse effects on people.
“It has been extensively tested and . . . successfully used worldwide for over 12 years, to the extent that the US is using it in places like California, Nevada and Texas,” Vinnicombe notes.
WaterSavr is being vetted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the Water Research Commission. If successful, it will then be presented to the Department of Water and Sanitation for possible application to local dams.