M&R boss: We’ll give Cape Town 30m litres of water a day in 20 weeks

Full extract:

JOHANNESBURG - Listed engineering and construction group Murray & Roberts (M&R) claims that its power and water business has the capability of providing 30 million litres of water a day within 20 weeks through a desalination solution.

Henry Laas, the chief executive of M&R, confirmed that the company planned to have discussions with the City of Cape Town about it as a solution to the city’s water crisis.

Laas said that the first water from M&R’s desalination solution would be available after only eight weeks and that 30 million litres a day would be available within 20 weeks.

He labelled opposition to investments in desalination in Cape Town because it could rain in the next six months and solve the water shortage problem as “short-sighted”.

“If you look at the trends and predictions, Cape Town is going to become a very dry place. It’s not a short-term problem.

“It may be solved with good rain, but wont take the problem away. Cape Town will have another (water) problem two or three years down the line,” he said.

Laas said M&R had a small company called Aquamarine in Cape Town that was part of the group's water business. It was doing well, but did not have the scale to impact the bottom line of the group. He said they had done a feasibility study for the Life Healthcare private hospital group, which had more than 50 hospitals, because of their concerns about water supply.

Aquamarine had recently finished two projects for Life Healthcare, where they sunk boreholes and provided a water treatment plant, which meant those hospitals were now off the grid, he said. Laas added that in some instances, with the new Aquamarine technology, they did not sink a borehole, but used discharged water if there was a municipal feed, which dramatically reduced municipal water usage.

M&R’s water business also holds the exclusive licence for the waste water treatment technology of Organica for South Africa and the Southern African Development Community.

Laas said they had built a demonstration plant in Verulam in KwaZulu-Natal that was in the process of being commissioned and were talking to water consultants to try and convince them it was an extremely viable option.

He said about 70percent of M&R’s revenue now came from outside South Africa, but that would change if the government succeeded in turning the economy around and infrastructure investments happened again.

Shares in M&R closed 1.74percent lower on the JSE at R11.30 yesterday.

Lee Last