Arleen Stone

A new and innovative online water saving campaign will soon aim to help Stellenbosch University (SU) to raise awareness amongst students around saving water.  At the beginning of this month level 5 water restrictions were implemented in an attempt to combat the extreme draught in the Western Cape.

SU’s facilities management is increasing their effort to raise awareness around saving water and will soon launch Project80.

The university, together with experts and local municipalities, is in the process of developing water optimisation and drought response plans, according to Meg Pittaway and John De Wet, environmental specialists at SU’s facilities management.

“We all need to think about water differently and reuse as much water as possible,” Pittaway said. “This includes businesses, faculties and residences. All campus users, including staff and students, need to be water warriors to save water on campus.”

Pittaway and De Wet explained that this entails water efficient fittings into all residences, including reduced flow shower heads, aerators (which add air to water, minimising the flow), and plugs for all basins. They will also be refurbishing and resetting toilets to use less water on each flush, and dispensing a team of technicians to fix reported leaks.

Pittaway and De Wet said they are also working on awareness programs to get the urgent message out to everyone on campus.

An example of such a program is Project80, an awareness program aimed specifically at students and university residences to reduce water usage to 80 litres per person per day.

According to De Wet, environmental sustainability manager, the project will soon be launched on social media, enabling facilities management to communicate with the students to give them data regarding their water consumption and help them to manage it. “We feel that the best results are always obtained when the students accept their responsibility, and are champions in their residences to reduce their water consumption. It is no use facilities management installs low flow shower heads if students remove it,” added Pittaway.

Even though the university is not currently planning for a scenario where the campus would have to be temporarily closed due to water shortages, De Wet has asked students to monitor their water usage. “Plans are in place to provide campus with water from alternative water sources for the rest of this year and next year.”

He explained that facilities management staff will support, advise and encourage students who feel they have a solution to reduce water consumption. If the current draught and water restrictions worsen, De Wet explained that the first priority would be to ensure long term water use by reducing the overall consumption.

According to De Wet, the university and the municipality are considering the sinking of boreholes and the installation of filtration plants to supplement the water supply in the short term.

Photo: Elze Goosen