Water Sensitive Airports for South Africa


Airports Company South Africa are owners of some of the best internationally acclaimed airports in the world and has a mandate to manage, mitigate and report on environmental issues at their properties. The three major South African international airports have, in its peaks, accommodated approximately 30 million passengers per annum in air traffic move​​​​ment.


The activities at an airport have substantial effects on the environment, including high water and electricity usage. Due to the rapid urbanization and more of individuals travelling in and out of South Africa, there is continued development taking place, which creates the constant need for potable water services and a requirement for more accurate water demand management practices.


Inaccurate estimates lead to inadequacies in basic design information for water-based services that could lead to decreased service provision and inequitable water distribution, that will affect airport operations. Habitual water stress leads to increased water restrictions or use fees at airports - meeting the water needs of essential facilities like airports requires upgrades in water infrastructure.


In the long term, chronic flooding from sea-level rise requires updates to drainage systems, runway surfaces, and connecting infrastructure. Airports in arid climates like South Africa use large amounts of water for cooling and irrigation as well as pavement power washing. Decentralizing water supply will reduce operational costs and make the facilities more resilient to water scarcity conditions.


The locations of major airports can be vulnerable to water extremes, which have been intensifying because of climate change. Planning for resiliency is critical, especially for airports located in densely populated communities, next to rivers or in coastal areas. Airports play a vital role in economic growth and are essential hubs for connectivity and trade, especially for the rapidly urbanizing African continent that relies on tourism as major economic driver.


We design projects and identify opportunities that combine environmentally friendly water implementation and management with all resilience aspects needed to create water sensitive airport facilities. Our engineers have championed many projects globally and continue to change the landscape of high traffic transport facilities.

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