Aquamation: The water that sustains us can also help us say goodbye

Water is a natural, and essential, part of life. From the moment we are born, it sustains our existence. In fact, water is so fundamental to life, it makes up 60% of our bodies.

We have recognised this vital element in our rituals, rites and practices, both religious and secular since the dawn of mankind.

It seems fitting then, that when we and our loved ones pass on, we do so in a ritual that is rooted in the gentle, supportive element of water, and one that completes the circle of life.

This innovative practice is the gentler, greener alternative to cremation

People have become more aware of the impact our lives, and the way we lead them, has on our planet. We are also becoming more conscious of the negative environmental impact of the burning of fossil fuels, including traditional flame-based cremation.

The idea of green funerals has rapidly gained interest. Funeral service providers abroad as well as AVBOB in South Africa, offer aquamation to meet this need. This allows people, both the living and the departed, to reduce their carbon footprint, and say goodbye in a more sustainable way.

  • Aquamation is a natural process with no emission of harmful greenhouse gases or mercury.
  • Its carbon footprint is 1/10th of that of flame cremation.
  • It uses very little water.
What is aquamation?

Aquamation is a gentle, supportive process that uses water to return us to nature. It mimics the natural organic process that the body undergoes when it is finally laid to rest. It does this by using a combination of water flow, temperature, and alkalinity.

The process is also known as flameless cremation, water cremation, and bio-cremation, as well as its scientific name, alkaline hydrolysis.

Alkaline hydrolysis was originally developed in 1888 by Amos Herbert Hanson. Amos was a farmer who developed the process to help the growth of crops. It was officially put in use by the Albany Medical College in America in 1993, and the first machine to peacefully reduce the deceased’s remains to their essential elements was used in 2006.

AVBOB has also been at the forefront of developing this innovative and gentle procedure. We have conducted intense research into aquamation over the past six years. This includes visits to facilities in the United States, consultations with our partners, as well as strategic planning.

AVBOB introduced aquamation to South Africa in November 2019.

How does aquamation work?

Many people are unsure how aquamation works, because it is a relatively new way to lay the deceased to rest.

The body is respectfully laid out in a receptacle which is then placed in a sterile, stainless-steel chamber.

A combination of gentle water flow, moderate temperatures, and alkalinity are then used to hasten the natural process, and all organic material is softly broken down into its most basic building blocks.

At the end of this process, water is released for recycling – our bodies are made of about 63% water after all – and only the inorganic minerals remain. These are then lightly processed into powder and returned to the family in an urn.

It’s a farewell favoured by families

Aquamation’s memorial ceremony and returning of the ashes remains safe and unchanged from traditional cremation. In fact, families receive an urn filled with a third more of their loved one’s ashes.

Whether for safekeeping or for scattering in a ritual of their and the departed’s choosing, aquamation offers all affected a dignified and supportive final resting.

AVBOB’s aquamation is a first in SA - and Africa as a whole

We are known for being the leading funeral service provider in South Africa and are proud to be the first and only provider to offer aquamation as a means to bid your loved ones the fondest farewell.

We offer this more sublime service to both private clients and our policyholders. Aquamation is currently only available at the AVBOB Maitland Funeral Parlour in Cape Town.

Aquamation is one of many offerings available to you - another way we’re there for you.


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