Salt-free charity work

“Day Zero as a concept has been a reality to millions in Cape Town for years.”

But now Murendeni Mafumo is using awareness around the drought to cross the divide of the haves and the have-nots – by using desalination.

The entrepreneur has designed a small-scale desalination plant that will be installed in September in Granger Bay.

And while the desalination plant will provide water to an office block on Beach Road, it will also fund a second planned desalination plant in Monwabisi, which will support community facilities­.

The Granger Bay plant will also have a retail section, allowing locals to buy bottled water. These proceeds will also go towards funding the Monwabisi plant: For every litre bought, 20 litres will be given to communities on the Cape Flats. The plant will also be open for the public to view.

After spending over a decade working for municipalities in research on water systems, Mafumo, founder of Kusini Water, joined other social entrepreneurs at the Red Bull Amaphiko Academy last year.

He designed a solar-powered water purification system that uses an activated carbon filter made from locally sourced macadamia nut shells.

These shells are harvested from macadamia nut farmers, and would usually go to waste.

Red Bull is reportedly funding the installation of the Granger Bay desalination plant, but the cost of the project had not been confirmed at the time of going to print.

“The aim of Kusini Water is to bring about a systemic change in communities currently underserved when it comes to water and sanitation,” Mafumo says.

Two of his water purifications plants are already up and running – one in Shayandima, Limpopo, and another in eMalahleni.

However, the Cape Town plant will be the first to operate on a large scale – producing 4000 litres of fresh water an hour, or enough water for over 4800 households a day, says Mafumo.

The Monwabisi plant is expected to supply a local school, although the name of the school had not been released to People’s Post at the time of going to print.

Central to the project is not just a social development component, but also a focus on environmental sustainability.

The desalination plant, which will obtain seawater from offshore marine waters and discharge concentrated brine effluent through pipeline infrastructure, will rely on solar energy to power the desalination process­.

In addition, brine generated through the process will be harvested, says Mafumo, and either sold or used to power batteries used in the desalination plant.

Mafumo estimates around two to three kilograms of salt could be harvested daily, should the plant run at peak capacity.

“What we need to focus on is the future of the continent, the future of the City of Cape Town, because the drought will come again. So the big questions really is what organisations and companies can do to ensure they reduce strain on the resources we do have. Renewable energy is going to play a big role in sectors like water.”

Mafumo believes his system is more effective than traditional desalination systems, saying that not only does the Kusini water system remove 99.9999% of all bacteria and viruses, it can produce 40 times more water than reverse osmosis, the current best practice, and uses about half the energy.