Waterwise at UP

Posted on January 07, 2016

While Gauteng is experiencing one of the driest and hottest summers in years, the University of Pretoria (UP) has to ensure that it adheres to the water restrictions implemented by the City of Tshwane while maintaining one of its biggest assets – its environment.

Fortunately, says Prof Susan Adendorff, Director: Facilities Management at the University, UP has been planning for possible water shortages or water disruptions for quite some time.

“Because the infrastructure outside the University has been deteriorating over the past few years, UP has been preparing for possible water shedding for a while.”

According to Prof Adendorff the challenge posed by water shortage is that water, unlike electricity, cannot be generated. “You can use the available water as effectively as possible or you can store it. Those are the only two options you have when it comes to water shortages.”

In light thereof the University has initiated an investigation into all the available sources of water on campus for the event of a sudden disruption in the water supply.

Prof Adendorff says this entails an investigation into the amount of boreholes on the various campuses, as well as reservoirs like water tanks on the roofs of certain buildings.

One of the unique water storage facilities of the University is the rainwater harvesting area outside the Mining Study Centre. This area was completed in 2013 and serves as a harvesting garden for rainwater that is used to irrigate the Botanical Garden. It also hosts various water plants. Up to 80 000 litres of water can be harvested and stored here. This facility has a further function because it is often used in research.

Prof Adendorff says all the other lawns and gardens on the campuses are irrigated with borehole water and where possible irrigation systems were recently adjusted to water the gardens only in the evenings to limit evaporation.

As far as the planting of new plants are concerned, waterwise gardening is implemented by using drought resistant plants. Any new buildings constructed by the University are also built in accordance with waterwise regulations, for instance by utilising “grey” water where possible. “Grey water” is water that has already been used, but which can serve a further purpose – such as the flushing of toilets – before it is dumped into the municipal sewerage system.

Prof Adendorff says a team of consultants recently conducted an investigation into the water usage at all the buildings on the campuses and where the water usage was too high, it led to a search for any possible water leaks. These leaks were repaired and this action alone has resulted in big savings.

Prof Adendorff says she believes in collective responsibility and she encourages anyone who notices a leak on a campus or in a residence to report the problem at the Department's one stop service at 012 420 2244.


- Author Anna-Retha Bouwer

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