We’re running out of water. Is a soccer pitch the solution?

 

South Africa is drying out. As rainfall and dam levels drop, so does our supply of clean water. The little that’s left is unevenly distributed, forcing some communities to depend on polluted sources. It’s a crisis that demands creative solutions. Corne Theunissen is using one of our country’s greatest passions, soccer, to purify drinking water for those in need.

Theunissen, the director of Mmapula Community Development, saw the need for better facilities at Moedwil Secondary School near Rustenberg. Working with GreenSource, an NPO making clean water accessible, she facilitated the building of a soccer pitch with a hidden water catchment system below. Filters purify borehole and rainwater twice – once before storage and again before use – while the underground reservoir keeps the water cool, clean and ready for drinking. It is accessible to the schoolchildren and over 200 households at a nearby informal settlement. The pilot system, built in 2015, is a versatile model that can be altered for other uses, such as replacing the artificial pitch with soil for small-scale farming.

GreenSource intends to replicate the multipurpose reservoir to meet the needs of communities across the country. If 20 of these are built, they could provide potable water to 30 000 people in the next five years. It’s a solution made to last. The storage unit has a lifespan of 25 years, while the artificial turf will remain intact for at least a decade. Local community members were employed and upskilled during installation, as well as trained on the maintenance of the systems, making them self-sustainable. Through this ingenious solution, Theunissen and her team are challenging the water crisis, while investing in South Africa’s development and sporting future.