Innovation Partnership for Rural Development Programme - IPRDP

Blue Drop (drinking water) and Green Drop (wastewater) certifications are key measures of the quality and safety of water provided by municipalities and their service providers.  This can be particularly important in areas where the economy depends heavily on tourism.


Planning for water safety and wastewater risk abatement is essential for the sustainable and reliable provision of services. 


A project was initiated in April 2014 to assist in the assessment of current practices at selected municipalities, and to provide guidance and technical support where required.  The project also assisted in the development of new risk management processes for both water and wastewater in district municipalities, and of capacity among municipal officials.


The Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal were the target provinces for the first roll-out of the project.  The project started with a review of risk management practices for both water and wastewater in each of the 12 district municipalities identified, to see where they were most vulnerable.  Aspects such as the planning team, system assessment, hazard and risk assessment, corrective actions, and monitoring and evaluation were considered.


Water safety plan scores ranged from a low of 37,75% in Alfred Nzo District Municipality, to 86,69% in Ugu District Municipality.  Wastewater risk abatement plans saw even lower average scores, with the lowest score (11%) found in Uthungulu District Municipality.  In contrast, Amathole District Municipality in the Eastern Cape had a 100% average wastewater risk abatement plan score.  From this initial assessment, it was evident that some municipalities needed more support than others.


It was found that most district municipalities had challenges with monitoring and evaluation, documentation and communication procedures, management and support programmes, and plan reviews.  While municipalities were aware of risks, they had difficulty in working out action plans to mitigate them.  Workshops were conducted to help them do so. In addition, new safety plans were crafted at selected municipalities, and technical support and skills transfer was emphasised. 


Finally, a qualitative assessment of the new plans was completed.  The project team also carried out a sample survey at the close out of the project in December 2016, to establish the impact of the risk management support, the understanding of risk management processes, and where support was still required.


Water safety planning and wastewater risk abatement plan video


Implementing agent


Water Research Commission

012 761 9300

One project looking at the treatment of wastewater involves algal-based tertiary treatment in maturation ponds of at wastewater treatment works.  The project established a self-sustaining system, independent of electricity or expensive chemicals, to allow for the effective removal of nutrients and pathogens in effluent.


The project was aimed at solving problems in areas with limited resources, and infrastructure that had not been maintained. 


The project was implemented between April 2014 and December 2016 at the Motetema wastewater treatment works, in the Sekhukhune District Municipality.  The municipality has significant challenges with its water quality and sanitation services.  Three plants are at high risk and 13 at critical risk. 


The project used a selected cultured microalgae consortium to remove nutrients (e.g. nitrogen and phosphorus from human waste) from saturated ponds to levels below the minimums set in Department of Water and Sanitation guidelines.  In the three ponds tested, the percentage reduction of total phosphorus in unfiltered water (containing algae) was 94%, 85% and 84% after treatment, with total nitrogen removal in these ponds 43%, 35% and 31%, respectively.


There were capacity-building events to deal with matters such as regulatory processes and sludge treatment.  An intensive capacity-building exercise took place at the treatment works, with the site controller learning how to operate the new technology.


It is hoped that the project can be replicated in other areas. In order to scale up the project, it was recommended that a licensing model be applied, allowing companies to engage with the technology, creating job opportunities and awareness.


Possibilities such as aquaculture will be investigated once the algae-based process is operating optimally.


This project had a significant impact on reducing nutrients in wastewater effluent.  In addition, the environmentally friendly treatment method supported a reduction in human health risk downstream of the wastewater treatment works.


Wastewater Treatment Works video


Implementing agencies


Water Research Commission

012 761 9300


Council for Scientific and Industrial Research

012 841 2911

While the electrification of urban areas and informal settlements in South Africa has increased rapidly in the past 20 years, the provision of electricity to rural areas is still a challenge.  Many remote areas – especially small settlements, villages or farms – are unlikely to be connected to a national grid in the foreseeable future owing to their remoteness, sparse population and relatively low average energy demands.


Small-scale hydropower schemes can therefore play a critical role in providing energy access to isolated areas in South Africa as stand-alone mini grids.  Internationally, this is considered the best proven renewable energy technology, ideal for the electrification of remote communities.


The aims of this project are as follows:

·         To prove that it is feasible and technically possible to provide small-scale hydropower installations for rural electrification in the current South African legal and policy environment.

·         To develop manuals/training material to assist prospective small-scale hydropower developers or proponents of rural electrification to deal with the technical, site evaluation, financial and regulatory aspects of such developments.

·         To evaluate the various dimensions of sustainability (technical, economic, social, environmental and institutional) of small-scale hydropower plants used for rural electrification.

·         To demonstrate technology by means of full-scale pilot plant installations, using various technologies available.

·         To ensure that successfully operating and sustainable small-scale hydropower plants are constructed.


The project is intended to provide rural communities with a grid-quality, reliable electricity supply, improving their standard of living.  It also intended to make local stakeholders (private sector, financial sector, government entities, etc.) aware of the opportunities that this technology brings. There is extensive public participation and consultation with communities to introduce the technology to them and explain how it works.


In Kwa Madiba in the Eastern Cape, for example, the small-scale hydropower system is capable of providing 54 houses with electricity.  The electricity is generated at no cost because it uses water that is already flowing in the river.


There have been 76 people actively working on the project, 32 of them employees of the Mhlontlo Local Municipality.  Eighty per cent of all building materials used in relation to the construction of the Kwa Madiba hydropower system were sourced within the OR Tambo District Municipality.


Further projects that are initiated and implemented for non-grid electrification purposes will only need to follow a registration process to obtain the required water use authorisation, and not the full water use licence application process.  This will save significant time and expense, benefiting the municipality and the communities served.  Changes to legislation achieved through the project will also make it easier to develop run-of-river hydropower schemes in the future.


The project has had a significant effect on the quality of life of the Kwa Madiba community.  Various government departments have partnered successfully in the development of this scheme, and changes in legislation and registration requirements mean that implementation of similar projects in other rural communities will now be easier. 


One challenge noted was the differences between the mandates of district and local municipalities with regard to the provision of water and electricity.  However, once this problem had been solved, the project progressed positively.  This lesson has already been factored into the second round of projects to be implemented.


Ultimately, the design of the Kwa Madiba small-scale hydropower pilot project has proven the feasibility and technical possibility such installations for rural electrification.


Small-Scale Hydro-power video


For more information contact:


Water Research Commission

012 761 9300




Water scarcity is a major challenge in South Africa, with severe water shortages in some areas of the country.  However, for various reasons (for example the free provision of basic quantities of water to connected households), water is not always perceived as a scarce commodity.


For example, many people do not realise that a washing machine consumes approximately 100 litres of potable water per load, or that a bath uses four times as much water as a shower.