Stellenbosch University(SU) is doing its part to abide by the severe water restrictions and has successfully reduced its water consumption by 45% .
The University has achieved this significant saving by implementing a wide range of innovative water-saving interventions and by changing people's behaviour and water use through public relations campaigns. The interventions are outlined in the SU Drought Response Plan, a detailed document that guides SU in addressing water shortages and that ensures SU's sustainability if taps in the Western Cape run dry. The plan was devised in 2017 under the leadership of Chief Director of Facilities Management, Nicolette van den Eijkel, and, with the support of the Drought Response Contingency Workgroup, the various interventions were rolled out.
John de Wet, Manager of Environmental Sustainability at SU, says that they are pleased with the success of the interventions and with the support that they received from the campus community.
De Wet says that their first line of intervention was quick fixes, which saw SU launch the "War on Leaks" project. The project saw the establishment of a permanent team that identifies and fixes leaks across the SU campuses. Part of the project entailed replacing toilet cisterns with water-wise ones and fitting Flush Buddy bags in cisterns, which drastically reduced the amount of water used per flush.
The roll-out of large-scale grey water systems in residences also contributed drastically to the University's water savings, while the fitment of efficient equipment installed in kitchens and residences contributed to between 20 and 30% of savings in potable water use. SU also opened and renewed six existing boreholes, with each earmarked for a specific purpose. Water metres were installed in buildings across Stellenbosch Campus, providing De Wet and his team with accurate water measurements at 15-minute intervals.
Although Day Zero has been put on hold for now, De Wet says that the University will continue to implement water saving initiatives and that SU's potable water demand is expected to be reduced by 63%.
Three major projects are earmarked for roll-out this year. This includes the construction of a toilet grey water system that will see grey water from residences run through a single central purification system on Stellenbosch Campus and return this to the residences and administration buildings for the flushing of toilets. A state-of-the-art reverse osmosis purification plant will also be constructed on Bellville Park Campus and a wellfield of five boreholes on Tygerberg Campus.
“Our environmental sustainability vision for SU is that, by 2030, the University must be transformed and operating in the greenest sustainable way possible in the provision of infrastructure and systems and within its daily operations. This will result in minimal impact on the environment and on the resources needed," says De Wet.