It all started with a conversation with the FIFA during the preparations of the World Cup 2010, hosted by South Africa. How will you make sure artificial turf remains cool in a hot climate? By applying water, of course. But just this resource is highly scarce in South Africa.
This made Martin Olde Weghuis, Manager Business Development at Royal Ten Cate NV, come up with an idea. What if a clever combination was to be made between sports and water purification? Together with the Netherlands Enterprise Agency and a subsidy from the Sustainable Water Fund (FDW) through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, an extraordinary project was set up.
Artificial turf and clean drinking water
“There were already astro turf fields in South Africa”, according to Olde Weghuis. “When a field was being watered, people would be alongside the field with cups in order to catch the water as they didn’t have clean drinking water themselves. Of course this is a bizarre situation.”
Olde Weghuis contacted a water purification company in Enschede and together they came up with an innovative plan: astro turf fields that would at the same time serve as water filtration systems and storage by means of an innovative membrane technology. The GreenSource Sports for Water was born. The consortium exists of Dutch and South African partners: Ten Cate (applicant), Pentair (water purification), Drainproducts (water buffering) and Landscape Solution (system integrator).
Killing two birds with one stone
The South African government acknowledges the problem of the scarcity of clean and safe drinking water and is looking for innovative solutions. Furthermore, they are looking for ways to improve the health of the South African people by creating more sports facilities in and near schools. “With GreenSource we are killing two birds with one stone”, Olde Weghuis explains. “We make sure that sustainable water buffering and filtration is established, together with high quality sports facilities. Via the tapping points, people are able to fetch clean drinking water themselves.”
Together with the Netherlands Enterprise Agency and the subsidy of the Sustainable Water Fund of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ten Cate and its partners were able to set up this project. The Sustainable Water Fund stimulates public-private partnerships in the water sector. This way, they intend to improve water safety and water security in developing countries.
“The most important prerequisite of such a project is involving the local community. If you fail to do this, it becomes a mission impossible. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency was able to help us with questions, for instance on which local partners to cooperate with and whether there was no inequality in the project organisation. It was quite a challenge to find the right people to work with. It is very important to invest in your network and build a kind of family together. This takes time, a lot of time. But once you are in contact with the right person, it is okay and it becomes possible to reach satisfying agreements.”
At first, 20 GreenSource systems will be installed near schools in the North West of South Africa. The first container is ready to be transported from the Netherlands. This spring, the first field will be opened. Olde Weghuis: “Together with our partners, we engage in much more than only providing the astro turf fields and water filtration. In this project, we train local technicians so they are becoming able to install these systems themselves in the future. Furthermore, we provide education on sanitation to the local communities. This way, we involve them in the project and make sure they feel connected to it. Something to be proud of and take good care of.”