World Water Day (22 March 2021) is a perfect time for Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences to take stock of how far we've come when it comes to valuing the precious resource of water. The observance of World Water Day is to support the achievement of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal number six: water and sanitation for all by 2030.
Christine Groenewald, coordinator for the Dean's Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability (DACES) said this year's World Water Day theme is all about valuing water. “In many ways, we still take water for granted when not so long ago we were holding our breaths at the prospect of running out of water in the Western Cape," she said. Water has an enormous and complex value in society – and on Tygerberg Campus, home to the FMHS. “It has value in our households, residences, offices, teaching and learning activities, the economics of how we run our faculty and of course, the integrity of our natural environment."
At Tygerberg Campus, the DACES has set out strategic goals which monitors the faculty's progress in the context of its journey towards a smaller carbon footprint. One of the goals is to reduce the daily per capita use of potable water in residences to a maximum of 100 litres. In 2020, the FMHS managed to achieve this in two of its residences (Huis Francie and Hippokrates). “This is really good news and from this year onward, we will be giving each residence weekly feedback on the consumption of utilities like water and electricity, so that they are aware of their consumption which in turn, will help adjust usage behaviour," says Groenewald.
The FMHS also introduced a greywater system at some of its residences which uses shower water to flush toilets and reduced potable water demand by 25%. Says Groenewald: “Shower water moves through separate dedicated network of pipes through the treatment steps of sedimentation, aeration, filtration and sterilisation before it is dyed blue at the treatment plant and returned to the toilets for flushing. Our greywater system is an intervention to help us save water – it must be supported by adjusted behaviour to function optimally."
Some of the other interventions on Tygerberg Campus to save water and reduce potable water usage includes:
- Aerators on taps and efficient showerheads in residences
- Smaller low-flow toilet cisterns in academic buildings
- Greater use of sanitisers
- Metering devices at each building
- Boreholes and a filtration plant on campus
- Improved and automated irrigation
- A 150 000 litre storm water reservoir at the back of eNkanyini residence to use for irrigation
- Greywater systems at residences using shower water to flush the toilets reducing the potable demand by 25%
- Only indigenous water-wise plants in our campus landscaping
- Use of permeable paving in landscaping areas
Groenewald says behaviour accounts for up to 30% of any saving and every action becomes a habit when repeated enough times. Staff and students can help by considering the following:
- Using water saving dishwashers and washing machines and only use them when full;
- Take showers under two minutes;
- Reporting any leaks in building or outside immediately to firstname.lastname@example.org or to 021 938 9433/9507