Murray & Roberts Water has entered into a licence agreement with Organica Water for their ground-breaking wastewater treatment technology.

“We’re extremely proud of this partnership, which gives us a unique edge in the local wastewater treatment sector. The technology has been proved in countries like France, China, Indonesia and we see it having still more potential in Africa considering our rapidly growing cities as well as an increasing need to upgrade aging infrastructure as well as energy conservation.” Harry Singleton, Operations Executive for Murray & Roberts Water comments.

This nature-inspired technology uses natural root systems along with root-mimicking media in a process that can be used in urban settings with no bad odours.

Organica’s wastewater treatment works are called water reclamation gardens, because they look like botanical gardens rather than tradition works. Enclosed in glass houses or attractive, but simple shading structures to protect plants from extreme weather, the gardens offer a number of benefits including better treatment characteristics, a smaller physical footprint, lower operating costs and positive aesthetics. This ensures higher water quality; no reduction in value of nearby properties; reduced energy costs and an affordable upfront investment.

Since reclamation gardens are attractive and don’t generate unpleasant smells, they are ideal for construction in cities and urban areas. “Urbanisation is causing a massive growth in city populations, for example in Gauteng approximately 300 000 people move to the province each year and this requires almost a new city’s worth of infrastructure to be built, while existing water scarcity is further exacerbated” says Péter Varga, Business Development Manager for Organica Water.

“The latest in food-chain reactor technology integrates fixed-film activated sludge processes, these solutions have developed over the last decade to become very successful and sustainable. Our application of water reclamation gardens has the potential to change mind-sets about wastewater reuse and recycling as well as the location of this type of infrastructure, enabling placement in urban neighbourhoods, close to where the wastewater is generated” continues Varga.

Presenting a massive cost-saving, water reclamation gardens reduce the need for expensive underground piped infrastructure to carry sewage out of cities. If the technology is then further applied to polish the water at the final stage of treatment, it can also reduce spend through water treatment bringing fresh water to the urban population.

Using Organica’s technology and plant roots, biomass is significantly increased in the water reclamation garden reaction chambers and provides a breeding ground capable of housing over 3 000 species of micro-organisms instead of the 300 species found in traditional wastewater treatment works.

“In a conventional wastewater treatment works reaction chamber, the activated sludge concentration is approximately 5kg per cubic metre. The plant root structures and Organica’s specialised media increase the surface areas for sludge attachment to take place, while also creating a better habitat for micro-organisms to live and multiply. This allows for greater biodiversity and facilitates biomass increase to up to 15kg per cubic metre” explains Varga.

A better biomass-to-volume ratio means the system can be up to 50% smaller in physical footprint than conventional treatment plants, which makes it more affordable, especially in an urban environment. The lower geographic footprint also makes the technology ideal for retrofitting existing works that may no longer be capable of servicing growing populations nearby.

“The timing of our partnership with Organica is opportune, as wastewater infrastructure in South Africa is in need of innovative and sustainable thinking and we believe our combined technology and experience can offer the domestic solutions required” concludes Singleton.