It is well reported that South Africa has gone through, and is going through, a number of crises regarding the dependability of supply of electricity and water. This is resulting in abnormal rises in the cost of electricity and water.

Past and present political interference halted or delayed development and implementation of long term strategies to ensure reliable electricity supplies, resulting in power blackouts due to inadequate supply. Furthermore, the need to “catch up quickly” has caused the enforcement of highly inflationary price increases of between 25 and 30% per annum for at least the next four years.

In the case of water, past contamination and sterilization of surface and groundwater resources, excessive wastage of water by industrial and domestic users due to low sub-economic prices, ineffective and inaccurate long term water supply and demand planning, and financial and environmental limitations on potential water storage options, have all placed considerable pressure on the abilities of the country’s water resources to provide adequate supplies to meet present and future domestic, industrial and ecological needs.

In short, future supplies of electricity and water to meet population and industry growth needs are uncertain and their costs are likely to be prohibitively high. This will have significant impacts upon doing business, profitability, staying in business and regional and international competitiveness.

There are various actions that can be taken to try and mitigate the effects of supply limitations and cost increases which will have varying results for commerce and industry, depending upon how seriously they apply the measures and how they prioritize and implement the actions.

Some suggestions for actions follow:-

  1. Upgrade water in the production process to the status of a strategic raw material and critically review all policies and practices relating to its acquisition, cost, use, contamination, replacement, optimization, recycling, minimization, and disposal.
  2. Review and upgrade (where appropriate) the measurement, monitoring and recording of water and electricity usage (and abusage) throughout the productions process.
  3. Establish employee KPIs, incentive initiatives for water and electricity usage and conservation and develop water and electricity optimisation suggestion schemes.
  4. Establish a corporate/site energy and water forum or committee (with representatives from all sectors of the workforce and management) to discuss and review water and energy usage, present and future.
  5. Consider using external facilitators or specialists to facilitate brainstorm sessions or undertake specialist studies to identify energy and water reduction or optimization opportunities.

If you have not already started doing some of the things identified above, can you honestly say that you are taking the current energy and water crisis seriously? Have you given any thought to the fact that insufficient consideration of these crises could cause your business to cease operation?

If you HAVE been successful in achieving reductions in consumption or have made significant changes which have reduced your water and energy vulnerability, please share them with other readers of this blog.

Arend Hoogervorst

Eagle Environmental