Inhabitants of the Western Cape have been aware for a while that the province finds itself in the clutches of a disastrous drought and a convincing solution is not in sight. Although many individuals and organisations have been saving water, a lot more can be done to reduce water consumption.
The Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences’ (FMHS) Green Committee is one of the organisations at Stellenbosch University (SU) that campaigns for the creation of greater awareness about the water crisis.
“We encourage personnel and students to use the information we disseminate in the monthly Impromptu news letters and by means of social media as talking points,” said Ms Christine Groenewald, project coordinator of the Green Committee.
Groenewald recently attended an information session at SU’s Tygerberg campus, where members of the FMHS’ facility management shared their plans for sustainable, integrated and cost-effective solutions to counter the drought.
“As an institution we have to consume 20% less water than last year,” said Groenewald. According to her, management has a three-pronged approach to achieve this and to have enough water to keep the campus going, even though the City’s water is limited. This approach entails:
- rationing water by applying reduced pressure and controlled flow;
- fixing leakages, improving tap and toilet flows and using water-saving shower heads; and
- investigating the use of alternative water sources, including boreholes and storm-water catchment.
According to Groenewald, some 35% of water in residences is used to shower and the new shower heads that are presently being installed, will cut this consumption by half. Leakages are being treated as a priority and the use of hand-washing water to flush toilets is being investigated. “Basins account for some 35% of the total water consumption.”
However, grey water conversion is going to take a while before it can be implemented, since all the buildings’ water pipes, some of which are very old, have to be checked first. In the meantime, the use of water-free hand disinfection units in bathrooms and the procurement of water-saving apparatus for laboratories are being investigated.
According to Groenewald, progress is being made and boreholes have already been sunk. “Naturally, further related processes will depend on the quality of the water and when it is found.”
Student leadership in residences plays an important role to make students aware of the necessity to save water. “Initiatives are already in place in residences to reduce shower times and catch water in buckets to flush toilets. The Green Committee has sponsored 10 buckets per residence to kick-start the project, but efficient use depends on the leaders and residence’s passion and commitment to the cause. We encourage students to implement their ideas.”
What does Groenewald regard as the biggest water-saving challenge? “Firstly, the behaviour of personnel and students. The infrastructure of the buildings and the original design of the systems are also challenges and Faculty management is attending to this.”
· Personnel and students are encouraged to report leakages at email@example.com or 021 808 4666.
Plant, eat and be green!
The Green Committee recently launched a vegetable garden project and planting will commence in January 2018. “It’s still a project in the making,” says Groenewald.
“The idea is to give students a chance to cultivate their own vegetables and also share the crop with the food pantry to help poor students. Simultaneously, we can make the ‘green agenda’ more visible.”
A parcel of land of approximately 20m2 was prepared behind the rugby field on the Tygerberg campus for this purpose and will later be enlarged as needs be. “We are still waiting for a water tank to be delivered and storage space for the implements.”
Groenwald says students will each be able to obtain a little area to cultivate vegetables of their choice, and the Green Committee will sponsor the seedlings. “We want to co-operate closely with the organisation Plant to Seed for training and assistance.”
Be on the look-out for more news about this project on campus.