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The sustainability reports of large companies are probably not widely read – at least by shareholders, who are probably more interested in the financial statements that reflect the profits (or losses) of a company’s endeavours.

But there may be considerably more eyeballs focused on the sustainable reports within annual reports of larger Cape Town-based companies now that the Western Cape is faced with severe water shortage challenges.

Latest reports suggest Cape Town’s taps may be turned off in the third week of April – a development that will have a devastating impact on some businesses.

Businesses – especially manufacturing, food production and construction entities - are huge consumers of water. Fortunately some Cape Town-based companies have already taken proactive steps to manage (and minimise) water usage. No doubt more initiatives will be disclosed as other Cape Town-based companies publish their 2017 annual reports in the weeks ahead.

Low cost housing developer Calgro M3 was one of the first JSE-listed companies to address the water shortage in the Western Cape back in mid-2017.

The company – which is busy with several large developments in and around Cape Town – reiterated a commitment to building a sustainable environment. 
Calgro had already last taken a decision early last year to slow down construction in the Western Cape to assist in preserving water.

The interim report noted: “Education programmes with clients are in place to ensure they understand why water conservation is critical to the country and the environment.”

Calgro CEO Wikus Lategan disclosed that water saving initiatives undertaken in the past six months had recouped the approximately 8 500 litres of water per unit used through the construction phase - both on and off-site - within three months after completion.

Lategan said Calgro would continue to develop and implement water-saving initiatives throughout project cycles.

He said Calgro was in the process of reassessing all its sustainability policies to ensure compliance with the ever-changing operating environment.

“Independent consultants have been appointed to assist in this process and a full-time sustainability officer will be appointed to ensure best practice throughout the company at all times.”

Hospitality and casino giant Tsogo Sun – which is controlled by Cape Town based empowerment group HCI - has also wasted no time in taping into water saving initiatives.

Tsogo’s recent interim investor presentation detailed R3.5m to be spent on water saving initiatives at some of its best known Cape Town properties – the Westin, the Cullinan and the Southern Sun at the Waterfront.    

One of the inventive initiatives involves a reverse osmosis plant to make brackish water pumped from the Westin Hotel’s basement potable.

Another R2.1m has been spent on boreholes and reverse osmosis plants at the Radisson at the Waterfront, the Century City hotel property as well as the Protea Victoria Junction Hotel.

A further R4.1m will be spent on similar efforts at the Newlands Southern Sun, Cape Sun, SunSquare and City Bowl.

Tsogo is also setting up additional storage tanks at smaller hotels in Parow, Milnerton and the Foreshore.

Fishing giant Oceana was already implementing efficient water usage and augmentation measures – including desalination technology - to secure its wide ranging operations against water risks in the Western Cape.

CEO Francois Kuttel said there was a possibility of a reduction or potentially no fresh water supply to Oceana’s factories as a result of continuous supply constraints following drought in the Western Cape

He said the inability to operate plants at full capacity could mean reduced profit for Oceana.

Kuttel said the Oceana board had already approved the installation of two desalination plants on the West Coast.

Kuttel reported that action plans to reduce potable water usage had already yielded 17% reduction. “This year we received our coastal water discharge licences from the DEA (department of Environmental Affairs) for all our lobster factories. Unfortunately the licences for our Lucky Star (the best-selling canned pilchards brand) operations are still outstanding.”

Business Day reported last month that pharmaceutical giant Aspen’s Cape Town-based subsidiary Fine Chemicals had invested in new infrastructure to be able to function should municipal water supply be cut off.

Fine Chemical's Epping-based plant is a major exporter of ingredients used in best-selling products, and the facility’s closure could seriously disrupt other Aspen manufacturing operations.

Aside from sinking boreholes, Fine Chemicals has also acquired a water treatment plant that is expected to be up and running in April.

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