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An awareness of the rate at which water resource development took place in South Africa being supply driven, until relatively recent times, leads to an appreciation of the changing philosophy in respect of water conservation and pollution control, as well as essential amendment to principles and procedures. Reconciling water demand and supply in catchments requires concurrent consideration of available water quantity and quality. This stimulates the need for change in the way we view water uses and brings about business opportunities in the sector. The review of infrastructure designs in support of water use and mining applications for industrial and mining waste has developed and transformed along with improved technology and changes in legislation since 1994 in South Africa. A containment barrier system comprises of both filter protected drains and low permeability liners which are visible in the short term until covered. They are required to perform effectively after initial use and are often inaccessible for the operating period and subsequent service life of decades or even centuries. This paper presents a regulator’s perspective of commonly repeated deviation from accepted norms and standards in the engineering profession, as applied to pollution control facilities. Emphasis is placed on the standards of today with experience reflecting on the past five years of design reviews, leading to conclusions and recommendations for facility owners and practitioners. Examples of procedure, mechanisms, performance, specifications and socio-economic benefits are addressed. It is postulated that in the near future many mining and industrial developers will choose to improve containment standards of barrier systems as a component of reengineering water demands and for economic advantage while embracing contributions from ecosystem services.
Keywords: water conservation, pollution control, barrier systems, ecosystem services
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