​​​SU campuses to save even more water​

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The good news is that students and staff at Stellenbosch University (SU) are already using 30% less water than in the corresponding period last year; and there is no truth in the rumours that campuses will close because of the water crisis.

The bad news is that water consumption has to be reduced even further, and that level 6B water restrictions will be announced for Stellenbosch later in the month (February).

John de Wet, Manager: Environmental Sustainability at Property Services at SU, says it was reassuring that staff and students were aware of the water-saving initiatives and that they were using less water. The Facilities Management Division launched intensive interventions in November last year to reduce water consumption; to encourage water-saving awareness among staff and students; to find alternative water sources and to recycle grey water.

De Wet said: “We deal with the water situation in different ways on the campuses. On 1 February, the City of Cape Town instituted level 6B water restrictions with the target of 50 litres per person per day. The University must save 45% water compared to its 2015 water consumption; and our two experimental farms must save 60% water compared to 2015."

Although the Stellenbosch water restrictions are still fixed at 87 litres per person per day, staff and students have been requested to limit consumption to 50 litres of water per person per day.

De Wet feels that water consumption could be reduced even further.

 He explained: “Staff members are already doing a great deal to reduce water usage. They are fully aware of the necessity to save water.  However, water usage at basins in the administration buildings make up 35% of the water consumption. If we can address this, we will be able to save even more water.

“Students at the residences have developed very clever ways of saving water. They collect the water from their showers and use it to flush the toilets. Many of the students are doing a great deal to help the process. All these efforts by the students and the staff have contributed towards the 30% water saving."

SU's water interventions include:

  • Changing shower heads and reducing pressure in taps;
  • Filled bags are placed in toilet cisterns to save one litre of water per flush;
  • Seven boreholes have been drilled on the Stellenbosch campus as additional sources of water;
  • Only borehole water is used for swimming pools and artificial hockey fields​;
  • Cricket pitches are watered only with borehole water and from the dam;
  • Only the Craven A field is watered from the dam to ensure that SU honours the existing agreement for the FNB Varsity Cup. The players practise there and, if so dry, the grass blades break off and sandy field can easily develop. The other sports fields are no longer watered.
  • The Lentelus fields were irrigated until the lawns were established, but watering is no longer essential.
  • The University gardens have not been watered since November 2017. Boreholes are used at strategic places just to maintain old historical gardens such as at the Wallenberg Centre, and elsewhere on campus.
  • Eendrag and Simonsberg residences already have grey-water systems to purify shower water to irrigate the gardens. Similar systems were also installed on the Tygerberg campus.
  • A big grey-water project will commence next month (March). Grey water from residences will run through a single central purification system and return to residences for flushing toilets.
  • Two large purification plants have been purchased for the Tygerberg and Bellville Park campuses. It will take about eight weeks before the plants become operational. Once fully functional the plant will supply 100% of the Bellville Park campus' water needs.
  • On the Tygerberg campus water from five boreholes that will be purified, can meet 50% of the faculty's water needs.
  • The swimming pool at Tygerberg is being used as a reservoir. Should it become necessary water can be transported from the quarry on the Bellville Park campus to Tygerberg.  
  • SU receives treated sewage water from Stellenbosch Municipality to irrigate certain trees in Stellenbosch;
  • SU has two dams – Ertjieskloof and Welgevallen – with a quota to use the water in summer for irrigation. This water is reserved for the Craven A field, the cricket pitch and the central section of the athletics track.

What does SU's drought-response plan entail?

The plan is based on three points of departure: to reduce water consumption by changing people's behaviour and through other interventions; re-using grey water; and identifying alternative water sources.

De Wet added: “The important message is, the lower our consumption is now, the more we can postpone Day Zero. Staff and students should bear in mind that the 50 litres per person per day is the total amount of water used, at work and at home."

What can you still do?

  • Shower for less than two minutes;
  • Do not let water run freely when washing your hands, brushing your teeth or shaving. Put the plug in the washbasin.
  • Flush toilets with collected shower water;
  • A toilet does not have to be flushed after every use;
  • Set an example and inspire others to save water;
  • Although the University will not close during the recess from 30 March to 8 April, students are encouraged to go home during this period. This will help to reduce water consumption in Stellenbosch.
  • Although interruptions in the water supply is not currently envisaged, staff and students are encouraged to keep 5 litres of water available to avoid any inconvenience if an emergency should arise.  ​


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The enhancement of systemic sustainability is one of the strategic priorities of Stellenbosch University. It is parallel to the broadening of access, maintaining the momentum of excellence, promoting social impact, expanding internationalisation, and promoting systemic transformation. Read more about the institution's ongoing sustainability initiatives (including water saving measures): http://www0.sun.ac.za/sustainability/pages/english/about-us.php