The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), South African Breweries (SAB) and government’s Working for Water programme have launched what is believed to be the world’s first fully quantitative water neutral scheme.
“South Africa is walking a tightrope with more than 98% of our available water supplies already allocated,” said Dr Deon Nel, head of the WWF Sanlam Living Waters Partnership at the launch of the WWF Water Neutral Scheme. “With limited options left for new dams, rising demand due to economic growth and unfavourable climate change predictions, businesses have to invest in water security programmes to prevent a water shedding scenario, the equivalent of load shedding.”
Prof Kader Asmal, the former Water Affairs and Forestry minister, added that water availability is one of the most decisive factors that will affect the economic and social development of this country. “By investing in the WWF Water Neutral Scheme, participants are investing in the future of our country, the well-being of societies and the human rights and dignity of the most vulnerable.” The scheme is similar to carbon neutral programmes. “Participants undertake a water audit of their water consumption footprint, implement water reduction strategies and make a financial investment into the active clearing of infestations of invasive trees and the restoring of natural habitats, which will produce enough water to replace the amount used by the enterprises,” explained Prof Asmal.
The scheme will initially focus on the quantification of water made available through the removal of invasive alien plants. A water neutral calculator has been developed to determine the investment a company needs to make to become water neutral through the removal of invasive alien plants. The calculator is based on two principals – the average amount of water replenished through the clearing of a hectare and maintaining it in its rehabilitated state, and the average cost of clearing a hectare of invasive alien plants and maintaining the rehabilitated state.
The total annual amount of water used by industry and urban users in South Africa is estimated at 3 652 million kilolitres. Alien infestation accounts for about 3 300 million kilolitres, the equivalent of 26 large dams. “Even a modest 10% market uptake of the Water Neutral Scheme could therefore deliver significant benefits in terms of increased water yield, management of invasive alien trees, biodiversity restoration and employment creation,” explained Dr Nel. Both Sanlam and SAB have already committed to the scheme. SAB uses around 4,4 hectolitres of water for every hectolitre of beer produced, which is within the United Nations Environment Programme standard of five to six hectolitres per hectolitre of beer. SAB aims to reduce its water usage to under four hectolitres.
Over the past three years, SAB’s Ibhayi Brewery in Port Elizabeth has reduced water consumption to 3,63 hectolitres per hectolitres of beer. Their Newlands Brewery in Cape Town has reduced its water consumption from six hectolitres to four hectolitres per hectolitre of beer. SAB said it hopes to make these two breweries completely water neutral through its involvement in the Water Scheme. “We operate in a semi-arid country and water quality and availability is a key priority for South Africa,” said Richard Chance SAB’s corporate responsibility manager. “Without sustainable and safe water supplies, we simply can’t brew beer.” – Glenneis Erasmus