What does Metsi le Temo want to achieve?

A community initiative - to create additional capacity at the Vaal’s (and majority of SA wwtw) under-capacity waste water plants, by using the treated waste water for agricultural purpose.  Thereby creating the necessary additional capacity, at half the capital cost of conventional methods and in the process also creating thousands of jobs.  So besides besides helping to reduce the pollution of the Vaal River System, tributaries and environment – this is a big job creator and improvement on food security.



In January 2016, the majority of the untreated effluent in the Emfuleni area was due to the insufficient waste water capacity at our three waste water plants (Sebokeng, Leeukuil and Rietspruit), to service the growing incoming waste water inflows.  At Sebokeng, our capacity was 100 megaliters per day and we were servicing up to 200 daily.  The result was dramatic pollution of the tributaries and Vaal river.  Due to this there was lots of discord between the community and Emfuleni with a number of judgements taken against Emfuleni by SAVE (Save the Vaal Environment) to try to stop them continuing to pollute the Vaal River Barrage.


It was common knowledge that ELM did not have the budget to build more capacity so a group of concerned people and entities got together to see what they could do about this, without using the conventional method (R15 million per megaliter build)  - to rathe look out of the box.

The participating entities were and still are:- North West University, Vaal University of Technology, Ilifa Africa (Consultant Engineers), Trinamics (Consultant Engineers), Metsi a Lekoa, ELM, Sedibeng, Rand Water, SAVE, Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce, NAFCOC, Emfuleni Tourism Association. The Rotary Club of Vanderbijlpark gave its endorsement and agreed to fund the research needed.


At the first meeting it was agreed that we were not going to point fingers who has caused what, (it was forbidden in the meeting), but our one heart-felt common wish which we all had in common, was to stop the pollution of the Vaal River and this meeting was to hopefully find alternative way/s together of creating capacity at our wwtw (other than the conventional way/ R15 million per megaliter – which there were no funds for).


To summarise almost 4 years:-

Lots of ideas and combination of ideas were raised.  Eventually Charl Claasens who is a Civil and Environmental Engineer at Ilifa Africa (he has been involved for many years in the ww infrastructure in the Vaal) – came up with the idea of using treated waste water for agricultural purposes to create additional capacity.  The logic behind this, is that currently our three wwtw (Rietspruit, Sebokeng and Leeukuil) have water use licenses to discharge into the Rietspruit and Vaal River, therefore being mandated to remove all pathogens and nutrients.  However if we changed the water use license for the water to be used for agricultural purposes, then the criteria mandate would be different, and we would treat the water “fit for purpose”, namely for agriculture, so we would only remove the pathogens, but not remove the nutrients.  Due to this the ww will be processed twice as fast since we would no longer be removing the nutrients, therefore doubling capacity, without having to build additional capacity.

Simultaneously it will have additional major spin offs of creating rich agricultural hubs with access to water 365 days of the year, major job creator, food security and the additional jobs will stimulate the local economy and help residents to be able to pay for the bulk service delivery – thereby strengthening Emfuleni Local Municipality’s financial strength too.


The big idea, is that Metsi le Temo would love to see this emulated at all 800+ waste water plants throughout SA, who have similar capacity issues to us and also predominantly use Biofilters, which are perfect for this.  The above benefits could then be enjoyed by all regions of SA.  800+ n new rich agricultural hubs in SA!


We decided to call this initiative “Metsi le Temo” (Water and Farming/Agriculture) and formed a NPO.


July 2018, one of the Metsi le Temo team, visited regions of California where they use treated ww for agricultural purposes.  It was so impressive and yet simple.  California, Israel, Australia seem to be the main leaders of wastewater reuse for agricultural purposes, but a simple google search, will reveal all the countries who practice this safely and have done so for many decades.  The World Health Organisation has done a number of Modules on this and it is very clearly scientifically set out for anyone to safely follow.  So we are not inventing the wheel here, we are just trying to copy what other countries have been doing successfully for decades.  But with the birth of Metsi le Temo’s concept (necessity is the mother of invention) / being based on an alternative way of increasing capacity.  And now with all the added benefits in our water scarce country.  So our ww will also now become a resources, vs the current problem it is of damaging and polluting our water systems.


In 2017, Metsi le Temo presented the idea to Sipho Mosai (CEO Rand Water) at the Technical Steering Committee of the Sedibeng Regional Sewer Scheme (SRSS).

Mr Mosia and the delegates (including DWS) looked favourably on it, but said we needed to conduct a series of studies which were specified, he gave us a year to do so and said we had to self-fund which we did.

A year later Metsi le Temo presented the additional studies at the SRSS Technical Steering Committee chaired by Sipho Mosia.  This initiative was formally accepted then in writing, to be integrated into the Sedibeng Regional Sewer Scheme.   Rand Water also commissioned Gibb to validate Metsi le Temo’s initiative, which was done by Gibb and they validated the studies.


The idea then was to initially do a Pilot Study/Experimental Farm first at 70 hectares of agricultural land belonging to Emfuleni, which Metsi le Temo would lease, which is perfectly located right next to the Rietspruit wwtw.   Once this proved to be successful, the initiative would be emulated at the 1000 hectares that Arcelor Mittal would give to local farmers (at no cost), this would assist with the Sebokeng wwtw capacity issue.  The same would be rolled out at Leeukuil wwtw.


What has held this whole project back is the water use license which needs to be issued by DWS and then the funding.  DWS has advised that the water use license should be approved by end Feb 2020.


Regarding the funding, initially there was funding from RW, but this did not materialize.

Then at the Human Rights Commission in Sept 2017,  DWS said they would source funding for this for July 2019.   This did not materialize.


Latest Status Quo

In November 2019, after a Metsi le Temo presentation, our Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation directed his DWS team to source funding to ensure the experimental farm happen.  DM also instructed that a Steering Committee be formed with all players including the Dept of Agriculture to ensure this happens.  The concept is that once this is proved successful, it can then be implemented at the other +800 waste water plants throughout South Africa, who also have capacity issues, thereby reducing pollution at half the price of the conventional way of building capacity and having many spin offs including major job creation and food security,

For further information on this contact rosemary@vaalriverintervenion.co.za.

Condensed Project Proposal

EMF initiative-utilization of WW effluent for agriculture-BP-Oct 16

Emfuleni Community Sanitation Initiative

Study 1 EMF initiative-Existing WWT-BP-Sept 16

Study 2 EMF initiative-Wastewater Irrigation-BP-Sept 16

Study 3 EMF initiative-WTW sludges-Investigation Rpt-BP-Sept 16

Study 4 EMF initiative-Commercial Agricultural BP-Oct 16

Study 5 EMF initiative-Training-BP-Sept 16

Study 6 EMF initiative-Pilot Plant-BP-Oct 16

Study 7a+b-EMF Risk Management-BP-Oct 16

Study 7b-EMF Risk Management-BP-Oct 16