Global Innovation Exchange Challenge: Innovative Solutions to Beneficiation of Water Treatment Residue

This Innovation Exchange challenge, delivered by Innovate UK KTN through the Global Alliance Africa project, is supporting Rand Water to identify innovative solutions for the utilisation of water treatment residue.

Opportunity Details


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Successful applicants will be given the opportunity to pitch their solution to Rand Water. The winning applicant, as selected by Rand Water, will get the opportunity to collaborate with them on a trial project. Up to GBP 25,000 seed funding is available to the successful finalist/s for this collaboration.

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The residue consists of suspended material and compounds formed when coagulants are added during the treatment process. The chemical compounds within WTR have potential market value without modification, or via separation or combination with additional materials. An innovative beneficiation solution will lead to waste being transformed into products and services with commercial value.

The Challenge

Rand Water is looking for solutions which can transform large volumes of dry/semi-dry/wet water treatment residue at their treatment facility into products or services with commercial value.

Solutions are invited from, but not limited to, the following sectors:

  • Agricultural sector
  • Engineering and Design
  • Chemical Sector
  • Construction & Infrastructure
  • Materials
  • Mining

Rand Water, the largest water utility company in Africa, is based in South Africa and supplies drinking water to the Gauteng province and other areas of the country. They process and purify large volumes of water.

Rand Water Institute has focus areas for its innovation and R&D activities. One of these priorities is to utilize Circular economy thinking to encompass sludge beneficiation, waste beneficiation, water security and resiliency, and water reuse.

Disposal of Water Treatment Residue (WTR) is a universal problem with growing environmental awareness and subsequent legislative requirements. Rand Water’s situation is unique in that the nature of the raw water, the treatment process used and the significant volumes of water being processed results in the production of a very large mass of WTR.

The  WTR, created at Zuikerbosch and Vereeniging water treatment works is combined at Zuikerbosch and dried at the nearby facility of Panfontein. This is dried in stages, coming in at c. 1-2% solids, which is increased to 16-20% solids using gravity thickeners, and then sprayed into large earth beds where moisture both percolates and evaporates, leaving 75-100% dry matter. This ongoing process produces about 500-600 tonnes of residue per day (expressed as dry material). Due to the nature of the process (waste streams are combined from 2 different plants plus natural variations) this residue has variable compositions of primarily inorganic and lesser organic constituents.

Panfontein is permitted as a hazardous waste disposal site, with conditions of the permit such that any disposal options are to be approved by relevant authorities. The vast bulk of WTR remains in the bed, and subsequent layers are added till the beds have reached capacity. The storage and logistical requirements of the facility require various logistical operations to be undertaken, eg: shifting to other locations if needed.

Panfontein is road accessible with mostly dirt roads within the site. There are 90 drying beds in total ranging in area from  2-3 hectares each with 1.5-4.0 m high sides.

Rand Water is looking for innovative solutions, which are sustainable and environmentally friendly, to utilise this dry water treatment residue. The process of recovering value is known as  Beneficiation and the process of generating new value is Valorisation. Both of these concepts are applicable to this challenge. Previous uses considered for WTR have been for soil beneficiation (expired approval) and brick making (previous thermal process investigation).

Rewards & Benefits

  • Up to GBP 25,000 seed funding (Subject to T&C)
  • Opportunity to pitch your solution to Rand Water
  • Collaboration/partnership with Rand Water
  • Access to Rand Water facilities (specific sites require prior security approvals)
  • Technical support and Mentorship from Rand Water team
  • Mentorship programme with Startup Discovery School (facilitated by KTN)
  • Access to materials, e.g.: Water Treatment Residue (Rand Water to provide relevant samples)
  • Sector expertise from KTN
  • Support in the development of a prototype or pilot
  • Invitation to attend or present at KTN events
  • Investor introductions (if investment is required)
  • Application support for any Innovate UK or similar competitions that are relevant.

Entrants to this competition must be:

  • Established businesses, start-ups, SMEs or individual entrepreneurs
  • Africa-based entrants, UK-based entrants and those from RoW are invited to apply.

For more details, including technical requirements, details of the composition of WTR, and functional requirements, visit the Global Alliance Innovation Exchange site at the link below.


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