Municipal wastewater treatment: evaluating improvements in national water quality


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Public Water Utilities (Municipal Waste Water Treatment Plants)

Andrew Stoddard , Jon B. Harcum , Jonathan T. Simpson , James R. Pagenkopf , Robert K. Request permission to reuse content from this site. Undetected location. NO YES. About the Author Permissions Table of contents Reviews. Selected type: Hardcover. Added to Your Shopping Cart. This is a dummy description. A thorough analysis of public policy and the Clean Water Act'seffect on water quality in the U.

WHO | Publications on water sanitation and health

Using water quality data and historical records from the past 60years, this book presents the measured impact of the CleanWater Act on domestic waterways-ecologically, politically, andeconomically. Municipal Wastewater Treatment supports thehypothesis that the Act's regulation of wastewater treatmentprocesses at publicly owned treatment works POTW and industrialfacilities has achieved significant success.

Thesuccesses of the Act that have been achieved over the past 30 yearsare placed in the historical context of the "Great SanitaryAwakening" of the 19th century and changes in public policies forwater supply and water pollution control that have evolved duringthe 20th century to protect public health and the intrinsic valueof aquatic resources.

Complete with end-of-chapter summaries and conclusions, MunicipalWastewater Treatment: Evaluating Improvements in National WaterQuality is an essential book for engineers, scientists, regulators,and consultants involved in water quality management and wastewatertreatment, as well as students of environmental engineering,environmental science, and public policy. Jon Harcum is a principal engineer at Tetra Tech, Inc. Jonathan Simpson is a senior scientist at Tetra Tech, Inc.

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These services include, amongst other responsibilities, the management of domestic wastewater treatment works WWTW and sewage disposal systems. Wastewater treatment is the process of removing organic and inorganic matter from the waste stream and making it suitable for releasing back into the environment. This technology can often be very expensive and requires high levels of technical knowledge, specialist plant operators and specific equipment DWA, a.


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In South Africa, wastewater services are currently provided by a total of WSAs via a vast network of wastewater collector and treatment facilities DWA, The country's WWTW have a collective hydraulic design capacity of 6 These numbers imply that, theoretically, the country currently has a surplus of Poor and insufficient wastewater treatment has often been referred to as one of South Africa's main water pollution problems.

This problem also manifests itself in the increasing incidents of non-compliance with national water resources legislation, policies, norms and standards aimed at the protection of South Africa's water resources Van der Merwe-Botha, ; Herold, ; CSIR, Most sewage from the country's urban areas, particularly small towns and densely populated areas, is improperly treated before discharge as a result of incomplete or non-functional WWTW or because these works are overloaded and mismanaged Oberholster, There is currently also a lack of trained operators at many WWTW and these often operate with limited budgets for infrastructure maintenance and upgrades Van Rooyen and Versfeld, Other challenges include inadequate capital and operating funds for wastewater treatment, lack of planning to provide for increased levels of urbanisation, inadequate human resource capacity and technical skills and a lack of co-operative governance between stakeholders in municipalities Ntombela et al.

In light of the above-mentioned challenges, the need for improved regulation and performance of wastewater services has become a prominent issue on the national water agenda.

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In this paper we briefly reflect on the different legislation and types of regulatory mechanisms that the Department of Water and Sanitation DWS has in place to improve the performance and compliance of WSAs. We combined a literature review with semi-structured interviews in order to obtain the necessary data to write this paper. The primary sources of information for the literature review component included relevant national policy and legislation, regulations and norms and standards, as listed in the references section.

We made use of journal articles and other relevant material, including available Green Drop reports, as secondary sources of information. In addition, we conducted a series of semi-structured interviews with two national DWS managers, one regional DWS manager, seven managers from two large metropolitan municipalities, two managers from a rural district municipality, and representatives from a consulting company.

These interviews were held in order to gauge how officials implementing the Green Drop Programme view the successes and shortcomings of the programme. The interview data were analysed by applying a cross-sectional code and retrieve method. This method involves identifying key themes, concepts or categories in the mass of data that has been collected from different sources Spencer et al. A theme is a general idea, notion or element that stands out as being significant, either because it is recurring, is significantly different, or has a major impact.

Having generated and coded a set of themes, we then wrote descriptive and explanatory accounts to identify key dimensions and expand on the range and diversity of each theme Spencer et al. We subsequently incorporated this analysis into the writing of this paper. We have chosen not to divulge the identity of the interview respondents in order to guarantee their anonymity.

As the highest law in the country, the Constitution of South Africa Act of represents the most overarching legal framework for wastewater services regulation. Relevant sections in the Constitution include the Bill of Rights, the assignment of powers and responsibilities to different spheres of government and the co-operative government principle RSA, The Constitution, together with the Municipal Structures Act Act of and the Water Services Act Act of , assign the responsibility for the provision of wastewater services to the local sphere of government municipalities.

In this regard some municipalities have been classified as WSAs that are responsible for providing water services within their areas of jurisdiction RSA, The regulation of wastewater services is however the responsibility of the national sphere of government and more specifically DWS RSA, This involves, among other things, ensuring compliance with the country's water legislation, particularly water quality requirements, and taking enforcement actions in cases of non-compliance DWAF, ; Ntombela, The legal provisions for the regulation of the pollution resulting from the wastewater sector can primarily be drawn from these pieces of legislation.

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Command-and-control based mechanisms. In order to implement the above-mentioned pieces of legislation as far as water resources regulation is concerned, DWS has for a long time relied on command-and-control focused measures. Such measures are based on directive-based regulation where objectives and acceptable standards are set and subsequently applied, monitored and enforced using administrative and criminal justice instruments Ntombela, The effective use of these measures in the context of wastewater services regulation is, however, limited due to the constitutional imperative of co-operative government, in terms of which organs of state are to avoid criminal proceedings against each other RSA, This means that DWS is required to ensure that every reasonable effort is made and all remedies are applied to address non-compliance before a matter involving a WSA is taken to court for resolution Ntombela, This often renders enforcement actions against WSAs rather difficult and lengthy compared to other non-compliant water users e.

The Enforcement Protocol for Organs of State Enforcement Protocol can be classified as a command-and-control focused instrument, although it also takes into account the principle of co-operative government. This protocol sets out a generic process to be followed for all interventions in cases of non-compliance by organs of state.

If this is not successful, the relevant DWS regional office will issue a directive, and if the conditions of the directive are not adhered to criminal charges may be laid against the WSA DWA, In spite of attempts by DWS to strike a balance between command-and-control based regulation and co-operative government, the implementation of the Enforcement Protocol has not been without problems.

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So, for instance, the protocol is currently being implemented without a proper, effective and publicly available case management and reporting system. This has made it difficult, particularly for the media and civil society, to track compliance and evaluate the overall effectiveness of the Enforcement Protocol since its implementation Ntombela, The absence of credible information about actions taken against non-compliant WSAs also impacts negatively on the credibility, accountability and transparency of DWS as the regulator.


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An additional problem is that DWS has adopted a reactive rather than proactive approach to the implementation of the Enforcement Protocol. This means that only those cases that the media and civil society expose as crises needing an immediate response are dealt with Ntombela, Incentive-based mechanisms. This programme is an incentive-based mechanism, which, in contrast to command-and-control type mechanisms, aims to facilitate compliance with regulatory objectives and standards through motivation and reward rather than direct regulation. The programme is based on DWS's realisation that rewarding positive behaviour may be more efficient and effective than sanctioning negative behaviour Ntombela, The Green Drop Programme aims to sustainably improve the quality of wastewater management in South Africa by identifying and developing the core competencies required to achieve this.

It furthermore aims to draw together the current goodwill demonstrated by WSAs and existing government support programmes to realise the focus, commitment, planning and resources that are necessary to achieve excellence in wastewater treatment DWA, The programme is administered by the water services directorate within DWS, which aims to ensure that all wastewater discharges from the water services sector meet the specified minimum standards in order to protect human health and the environment through the use of environmental regulation DWA, In essence the programme measures and compares the performance of WSAs.

While the Green Drop assessment takes into account the entire wastewater value chain reticulation, pumping, treatment, discharge DWA, , the cumulative risk assessment component focuses on the wastewater treatment function specifically. This element can be interpreted as one of the high-risk components of the wastewater value chain. Regulation that is risk-based allows the municipality to identify and prioritise the critical risk areas within its own specific wastewater treatment process and to adopt the necessary measures to address and correct these DWA, Where high risks are identified, DWS applies the Enforcement Protocol to ensure that an incremental process is followed which allows for actions such as municipal support, emergency measures and legal action DWA, a.

The current context of wastewater services in the country requires regulation to be developmental and supportive because many WSAs are not self-sustainable at present. Both the Enforcement Protocol and the Green Drop Programme are therefore meant to enable DWS to proactively encourage, support and incentivise compliance. After this pro-activeness, reactive and punitive measures may be applied in cases of recurrent non-compliance.

Against this contextual backdrop, it is DWS's broad vision that neither of the two regulatory mechanisms should take preference over the other, but that they are both to be implemented in a complementary manner to facilitate improvement in wastewater service provision DWA, While the regulator's vision seems clear and viable on paper, current practice within DWS demonstrates the need to strengthen the synchronization of these two mechanisms as they are currently being implemented in a somewhat fragmented manner.

As stated earlier, in this paper we focus on some achievements as well as some challenges facing the implementation of the Green Drop Programme, which are now discussed in more detail. The achievements of the Green Drop Programme. There are numerous reasons why the Green Drop Programme has the potential to make a valuable contribution to the South African wastewater sector. While this is not the worst position to be in, there is of course still considerable room for improvement.

In addition, the Green Drop Programme embodies a promising combination of an incentive-based approach and a risk-based approach.

Overall, the programme has managed to raise awareness regarding the need for improved performance throughout the wastewater sector by identifying and acknowledging problem cases, and initiating measures to address these. Green Drop reports with WWTW-specific information, which enables the regulator to track and monitor compliance, are made available to each of the participating municipalities. This implies that prioritised and WWTW-specific interventions can be designed, implemented and enforced in the light of poor performance and failure DWA, Before the Green Drop Programme started in it was difficult to determine the state of wastewater treatment in South African municipalities.

Initially only 98 municipalities participated in the programme, which can be attributed to a number of reasons. These include the failure by municipalities to respond to the then Department of Water Affairs DWA 's call to participate DWA became DWS after the national elections in , a lack of confidence on behalf of municipal officials, and a lack of management information required for Green Drop assessments because of municipalities not managing wastewater services according to the expected requirements DWA, This situation has changed since then as all municipalities now participate in the programme , up from an initial As a result a clear picture has emerged of what the state of wastewater treatment is in the country so that problems can be addressed DWA, It is also remarkable that this development has been voluntary as municipalities cannot be forced to participate.

This speaks to the success of the incentive-based approach and its potential to progressively move the country towards sustainable wastewater management DWA, b. This statement was supported by the significant and progressive improvements in overall performance that have been made on a national scale. These improvements are evident in Table 1 below, which presents the performance trends for the different categories that form part of the Green Drop comparative analysis. Table 1 - Click to enlarge. According to the then DWA , these results show that the Green Drop incentive-based regulatory approach, supported by a risk-based methodology, successfully acts as a positive stimulus to facilitate improved performance, while establishing essential systems and processes to sustain and measure gradual improvement.

Figure 2 elaborates on the information presented in Fig. The cumulative risk rating analysis also indicates an improvement in wastewater services from to The number of WWTW in the 'critical risk' space decreased from to between and , whereas the WWTW that were previously placed in the 'critical risk' space now occupy the high and medium risk categories.

This is evident in the increase in high risk to and medium risk WWTW to over the same period. Overall, the cumulative risk ratio for the country's municipalities i. These trends indicate an overall improvement trend as WWTW are moving into lesser-risk positions, and municipalities will benefit from continuing with the implementation of their wastewater risk abatement process. Here it is important to note that municipalities need to ensure that their risk positions remain constant once they are in an acceptable risk space DWA, From a provincial perspective, three of the provinces that we are looking at in this paper scored high in terms of the Green Drop.

Gauteng received an The Western Cape achieved an KwaZulu-Natal achieved an In addition, the implementation of the Green Drop Programme has assisted many municipalities in improving the running of WWTW through training and other support. In the past, when DWS still released the Green Drop results in the public domain, the programme also contributed to improving the relationship between municipalities and the public, as well as raising awareness about wastewater treatment. Challenges facing the Green Drop Programme. Although the Green Drop Programme has been successful in a number of areas, it is clear that there is still considerable room for improvement.

We therefore now also reflect on some of the challenges that the programme is facing.

Municipal wastewater treatment: evaluating improvements in national water quality Municipal wastewater treatment: evaluating improvements in national water quality
Municipal wastewater treatment: evaluating improvements in national water quality Municipal wastewater treatment: evaluating improvements in national water quality
Municipal wastewater treatment: evaluating improvements in national water quality Municipal wastewater treatment: evaluating improvements in national water quality
Municipal wastewater treatment: evaluating improvements in national water quality Municipal wastewater treatment: evaluating improvements in national water quality
Municipal wastewater treatment: evaluating improvements in national water quality Municipal wastewater treatment: evaluating improvements in national water quality

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