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Water Crisis: Inspiring Brewery water reuse project shows the way forward.

In Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth, South Africa), an area where Water “Day Zero” has arrived, a highly successful water reuse project at the AB-Inbev Ibhayi Brewery in Gqeberha provides an inspiring example of what can be achieved. Highlighting; collaboration, working with nature and the right filtration solutions as key elements in successfully reusing treated effluent water. While maximising project benefits for all stakeholders, pioneering a future of water projects that create jobs and contributes to local food security.

Responding responsibly to the water crisis in the area, Ibhayi Brewery has partnered with TaylorMade Water Solutions (TMWS) and Rhodes University to increase site water reuse through methods of sustainable effluent treatment.

In the past, the wastewater from the Brewery was treated with an anaerobic digestor which then passed the water into a gravel wetland system to attempt to produce final effluent suitable for Ultra Filtration for reuse in the Brewery. However, it was found that the anaerobic effluent contained high sludge-like solids loading that would rapidly overload and block the wetland system.

Trialling various pressurized filtration systems to remove some of the solids before the wetland further confirmed that normal pressurized screen filtration was unsuitable for the sludge-like solids and these systems blocked rapidly; backwashing or cleaning the screen elements in this case was extremely difficult or not possible.

“As in all successful water projects, diagnosing the problem precisely and prescribing the right filtration system again proved to be critical,” explains Laurence Sachs, Technical Director of Superior Filtration, a South African-based global filtration specialist supplying proven water filtration solutions to clients in 32 countries.

Superior filtration has faced this type of problem before and had designed a filter specifically to solve this challenge.

Superior Filtration suggested and provided a mobile trial unit of its unique Gravifilter to Ibhayi Brewery for TMWS to trial – essentially prefiltering particles bigger than 80 microns which were blocking up the wetland.

Completely different to the normal pressurized filtration process, the Gravifilter is a non-pressurized, gravity feed, continuous wash screen filter, making it the ideal filtration solution where solids are difficult to filter or where waste clogs up pressurized filtration surfaces. For example; On thickener overflow; solids in slaughterhouse wastewater; fibrous solids from fruit pack-houses; river or dam extraction; and lint in industrial laundromats and textile plants.

The trials showed that the wetland system functioned much more efficiently with the trial Gravifilter. This in turn allowed the natural filtration in the wetland to a level suitable for Ultra Filtration feed quality. Based on these findings, a full-size Gravifilter has been installed.

Now, instead of dealing with large amounts of waste sludge that requires expensive disposal, or even filtered wastewater clean enough to release back into the environment, the water can be reused. Additionally, the wetland system also converts the nutrients in the effluent into a valuable biomass through crop growth.

This has enabled the successful production of saleable crops and has created additional employment and food security opportunities. Beautiful and nutritious spinach is being produced, with previous trials having demonstrated that other vegetables will grow successfully in the system. Overall, 10 jobs have been created on this water reuse project.

The project also allows continued research and development by Rhodes University and TMWS, with 1 PhD, 1 MSc and 1 Honours research theses being conducted on improving the system, incorporating aquaculture into the treatment process, and determining the social benefits of the project.

“Even the toughest water challenges can be overcome. Water users who have the motivation to deal with their own waste can not only do the right thing but can contribute to job creation and food security benefits for society” concludes Sachs. “We are proud to be a small part of the solution to the local water crisis. This flagship project shows how significant environmental and social corporate benefits can be unlocked through; collaboration, working with nature and the right water filtration solutions. We believe there are many other applications where this type of creative and willful mindset can make a difference to what is emerging as one of the World’s most urgent problems. It’s hard to argue with a solution that uses nature (and a little help from our Gravifilter!) to protect the environment, create jobs and contribute to food security”

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