You can help cut UCT water use in half

26 February 2018 | From the VC’s Desk

Dear students and colleagues

As a major consumer of municipal water, the University of Cape Town (UCT) needs to set an example in water-wise use and sustainability, not only during the current crisis but far into the future. The forecast for Day Zero (the day that taps and valves will be turned off across large areas of the city) has been pushed back to 9 July 2018, however this precious resource will remain in limited supply even if we avoid Day Zero completely this year.

To ensure that water is conserved and properly managed, the executive have determined that as a campus community, each of us needs to use 50% less water every day, across all campuses.

There are several reasons for this drastic step.

  • The first, obviously, is to avoid Day Zero altogether.
  • The second is that should Day Zero arrive, our daily consumption will have been reduced to levels that we can obtain from a combination of municipal and non-municipal sources, such as boreholes and supplies from water tankers.
  • The third is that the City of Cape Town has prescribed that UCT must reduce water usage by 45% to avoid facing severe financial penalties. These fines would be extremely costly and would threaten the institution financially.

Setting a slightly higher savings target of 50% will help keep UCT on a solid financial footing as well as set an example for the responsible use of resources.

Reducing UCT’s water use by half is both necessary and achievable. One way that each of us can contribute is by ensuring that we use a total of no more than 50 litres of water a day, whether we are on campus, at home, in residence, in a research lab or visiting friends and family. There are many ways that each of us can reduce our personal water consumption. I urge you to make them part of your daily routine and to encourage others to do the same.

Saving water is not just an individual responsibility: UCT departments have also been instructed to reduce their water usage by 50%. Each department has been asked to appoint a “water champion” to coordinate discussions and activities to help save water, and every member of each department is urged to offer ideas and take the initiative to help save water.

The Water Task Team (WTT) is an advisory group at UCT that facilitates new water consciousness on campus and drives water-savings activities. It falls under the portfolio of Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Loretta Feris and is chaired by Dr Kevin Winter, who heads up UCT’s Future Water Institute. Engineering and logistics interventions are the responsibility of Properties and Services and report to acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Anton le Roex. Communications have been centralised under Jessica Fell, who can be contacted on 021 650 5671 or via the Water Desk email account.

Here are some of the steps that the WTT has taken in the last nine days:

  • The team has a complete record of nearly all water use across UCT campuses from 2015 to 2017, and it is calculating the volume, cost and per capita use. This data will help to generate evidence to ensure that UCT complies with the Level 6B restrictions.
  • The capture of seepage water on lower campus should be completed next week. This water will be used for irrigation of essential services.
  • CMD has developed a comprehensive water campaign that is being rolled out. Every department is asked to take their own initiative to bring awareness to the seriousness of the current drought and water sustainability into the future. Departments are also asked to support and to raise awareness about the 50% savings target that we are all wanting to achieve.
  • By the end of this month, all UCT residences will have their own shower buckets. Students will be asked to capture shower water and use it to flush toilets. There is also a significant information campaign in the residences using videos, talks and social media to raise awareness and help shift behaviour.
  • UCT has drafted a water management contingency plan, which is still being refined by Properties and Services and the WTT.
  • A total of 13 smart digital water meters have been installed on upper campus. This is the first effort to build a robust network of real-time digital meters on campus, together with a visible water dashboard that will improve the measurement and management of water.

These are just some of the ways that UCT is seeking to save water at an institutional level. Every individual effort is just as important. With your help, we can establish UCT as a water-wise and water-sensitive institution that contributes to the welfare of the Cape Town community.


Dr Max Price

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