The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) has awarded a R7 million grant to Stellenbosch University (SU) under the category Sustainable Infrastructure for the campus-wide grey water project.
Nadeem Gafieldien, Director of Property Services at the SU Facilities Management Division, says the grant came after a workshop, which was hosted by the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in 2016 which six other universities attended.
“We had done our homework and did extensive research on the drought to motivate why we deserved to get this grant as an institution. The sustainable infrastructure category had a new sub category called 'infrastructure efficiency grant' where grey water was one of the pillars, and we got the award for our grey water project.
“It is important to note that the total cost of the project was not R 7 million, but R12 million. Stellenbosch University's SUNCOM gave R5 million toward the project and DHET gave the large sum of R7 million," he adds.
Gafieldien says SU is the first institution of higher learning in South Africa to undertake a grey water project at such a big scale, and this could be one of the reasons why they were chosen to receive the grant.
SU's automated grey water system collects shower water at campus residences, treats it and sends it back into the system to be used to flush toilets.
This system has been rolled out to residences, and will later be introduced to academic buildings on the Stellenbosch campus.
The grey water plant has been running for a month, and has already recorded a 35% reduction in the use of water as well as a reduction in energy used to heat up water for showers.
A similar system is being developed for SU's Tygerberg campus and should be operational by the end of the year.
“The consulting engineers who worked on this project for us, JG Afrika, recently won an award for Innovation at the South African Institute for Civil Engineers in Cape Town for the work they did for our grey water project. That is how big this project is," says Gafieldien.
He also mentions that SU receives annual visits from the team at DHET to check on the progress of the project. “The last time we had a visit from DHET, they were very pleased with our progress on the implementation of the project," he says.
“At SU, we focus on optimising our existing infrastructure and try to make it work harder and better. Our aim is to reduce our total potable water consumption," he adds.
Gafieldien says the grant has helped the institution to reduce its consumption as well as the financial load while helping them to work harder and better in optimising the existing infrastructure.