SA Affordable Housing November / December 2017 // Issue: 67 - Page 26

FEATURES Saving the planet one drop at a time Save water the natural way. By Rehann Coétzee aWetbox filtering water for reuse in a lake. S upplying affordable houses to people who need them is only the first step in establishing sustainable communities. With affordable housing comes the need for electricity, water and other services such as refuse removal and sewage disposal. Recent droughts and resultant water shortages made South Africans aware once again of how precious water resources are and how crucial it is to use these sparingly. Coupled with the financial pressure inhabitants of low-cost housing communities often are under, the importance of water that is accessible and affordable cannot be over-emphasised. The Constitution of South Africa has placed a legal obligation on the government to realise the right to sufficient water for all citizens of the country. However, in some municipal areas communities don’t have access to water at all and in other areas people do not have access to water for up to 20 hours a day as a result of issues with water supply and failing water infrastructure. Yolandi Schoeman, a Klerksdorp innovator and owner of Baoberry Ecological Engineering Innovations, is passionate about supplying water in a safe and sustainable manner to vulnerable communities. For Schoeman, who holds a Master’s degree in environmental management from the University of the Free State, it is all about ecological engineering innovation, sustainability leadership and entrepreneurship. And the judges of the 2016 Global Cleantech Innovation Programme for SMEs in South Africa (GCIP-SA) certainly agreed with her. Her water re-use and recycling solution 24 NOVEMBER - DECEMBER 2017 AFFORDABLE SA HOUSING aWetbox being used in a residential area. – called aWetbox − was awarded top innovation of the programme. “The idea of aWetbox came about after I had spent quite some time in rural communities while doing studies on water security,” says Schoeman, a certified environmental impact assessment practitioner with the Environmental Assessment Practitioners of South Africa Association. “I saw how people carried water home from rivers over long distances. Others have to use water from boreholes that isn’t very clean; some have access to rainwater, but only during the rainy season.” “The current ways of water treatment in poor communities are very limited, and people are often advised to boil water before they use it. This is not always effective and they are exposed to smoke at installations where the water is being boiled.” She says there has to be a more natural way to improve water quality. “Initially I thought it would be i