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Closing the water loop in Ibayi, South-Africa: Waterleau and ABInbev join forces to combat drought.

4 September 2023

Much of the Eastern Cape province in South-Africa has been experiencing a severe drought since 2015. Also, in the Nelson Mandela Bay, water scarcity has had major socio-economic effects, impacting an impoverished rural population as well as jeopardizing business continuity.

Prone to continuous drought and acute water shortage, the ABInbev Ibhayi brewery has been counting every drop since it started operation. To minimize its water footprint, the beer production facility is taking additional steps towards circular water use, with the help of its global water treatment solutions provider Waterleau.

Advocating circular water use

The global ABInbev brewer has been a pioneer in sustainable water use. In the Ibhayi brewery for instance, bio-effluent from the anaerobic wastewater treatment is used for crop-farming. Each month 1,500 kg of spinach is harvest, providing fresh food for the local community. The crops feed on nutrients and organic compounds, cleaning the water.

In a new additional treatment step, the recovered water from the crop-farming activities will be re-injected into the brewery instead of being discharged and wasted. With the help of water treatment specialist and long-time partner Waterleau, ABInbev Ibhayi will now integrate a containerized Ultra Filtration unit to recover 250m³ of service water each day.

UF water recovery plant built and operated by Waterleau, free of cost

Waterleau is to start the construction of a state-of-the-art containerized Ultra Filtration unit with a capacity of 250m³ servicewater per day. The recovered water will be re-used as brewery servicewater, limiting the water intake from the city mains. With the integration of the Ultra Filtration unit, ABInbev Ibhayi will make more water available for the local community, as well as increase its water efficiency: for every bottle of beer, less water is needed.

Waterleau, will operate the containerized water production plant free of cost for a duration of 18 months. During these months in-depth researched will be shared and provide new insights on circular water use and the energy footprint.

Project Facts & Figures

  • Brewery ABInbev Ibhayi, Gqeberha, (former Port Elisabeth), South Africa
  • Bio-effluent recovery in 2,000m³ wetland bio-crop farm
  • Production of 1,500 kg bio-crops/day
  • Water recovery of 250,000 liter of service water per day
  • Energy savings with crop-farming post treatment: up to 70-80 MW/year compared to conventional biological treatment

Project Partners and Scope

  • Waterleau South-Africa: EPC contractor, co-finance and operation assistance of the Ultra-Filtration service water production unit.
  • Taylor-made Water Solutions: Design, construction and operation bio-crop farm and operation of the UF unit.
  • ABInbev Ibhayi: Brewery and project lead
  • Rhodes University: Research
  • Government of Flanders via UNIDO: co-financing

Fighting water scarcity together

The circular water use project aims to curb the ABInbev/SAB Ibhayi water footprint and address water scarcity in the Eastern Cape in South Africa.

The construction of the water recovery plant is co-financed by Waterleau, the Government of Flanders and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization UNIDO.

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