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Most Americans take it for granted that clean water will flow every time they turn on the tap. But imagine turning on the news and hearing that your community was running out of water.

That’s exactly what’s happening in Cape Town, South Africa, where an entire modern city has been on the verge of running dry. Only recently has the situation been stabilized, and only after slashing individual water usage by half.

How could this disaster have been prevented? South Africa has an extensive network of wastewater treatment plants, but 60% of these facilities do not meet the discharge requirements (limits on pollutant parameters, protection of sewerage systems, requirements to control sludge discharge, etc.) and 44% have opted for less suitable technologies when considering their water capacity and effluent quality requirements.

For years, the water supply in South Africa has been shrinking while the water quality has been deteriorating as the demand for water grows in cities, which leads to a dependence on water sources farther afield. This increased need for water is a result of both population growth and increased industrial demand.

Africa has about 9% of the world’s freshwater resources, but their water management policies and implementations have led to the continent having less fresh water per person than any country in the Middle East or Asia (areas usually thought of as water-scarce). Under those circumstances, water is too valuable to be used just once. And although Africa is the most glaring example of unsustainable water practices, the problem isn’t only there—for example, 54% of India’s groundwater wells are decreasing, while 60% of their aquifers are in critical condition.

This is a growing global concern. Access to clean water can be a stabilizing as well as a destabilizing force. By learning from these examples and changing preconceived notions of wastewater treatment, responsible policies combined with wastewater treatment and reuse technology can assist in making it a stabilizing force.

Further reading:

America’s water crisis could be worse than you know

Importance of water

Industrial wastewater discharge regulations

South African wastewater plant gets global attention

South Africa water crisis necessitates wastewater treatment

Treating wastewater efficiently and reliably

Unmaking America’s water crisis

On June 28, we shipped a trailer-mounted pilot system to a customer in Indiana. The on-site pilot system will operate for several weeks, demonstrating how the full-scale process would work. The system is designed to treat flue gas desulfurization (FGD) wastewater to meet Effluent Limitations Guidelines (ELG) limits. The technology components featured on this pilot system include:

  • ProChem’s I-PRO™ industrial high-pressure reverse osmosis unit
  • ProChem’s I-Micro™ microfiltration system
  • Membrane clean-in-place system


The 40-foot conex container also includes a laboratory area for process water testing, jar testing, and analysis of treated water, as well as a control area including HMI and SCADA monitors to allow for continuous monitoring and control of all process systems. Before the pilot system left ProChem’s headquarters, our Water Systems team put it through its paces to ensure safety, quality, and ease of installation at the customer site.

ProChem provides on-site pilot testing to demonstrate a treatment program’s performance in a live environment. Pilot tests provide an opportunity to optimize and enhance the performance of the program on site, so that our customers are confident that what they purchase meets their goals.