Report on the management of water on campus

13 October 2018 | Vice-Chancellor Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng

Report to Council (October 2018) on the management of water on the UCT campus

Executive summary by the Vice-Chancellor

The Western Cape is in its third year of one of the most severe droughts on record because of three successive years of well-below-average winter rainfall since 2015. It is likely that the region will become more drought prone and that water usage will become increasingly expensive.

UCT continues to be one of the top water users in the city and is highly dependent on municipal water for its operations.

We established the Water Task Team (WTT) in April 2017, under the leadership of Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Loretta Feris, with the task of conserving water, complying with the water restrictions imposed by the City, developing crisis scenarios and developing a long-term sustainability plan for water security on campus.

The WTT developed a seven-point plan that requires an adjustment to management structures at UCT as well as interventions, monitoring and financial support.

The UCT community has set itself a 50% water-savings target across campuses. While the City of Cape Town announced a relaxation of restrictions from 1 October 2018 from Level 6b to Level 5, UCT remains committed to reaching our savings target.

Interventions included, among others, the appointment of several (42) water champions (volunteers) across campus, the recent appointment of a director for environmental sustainability, an extensive communication campaign supported strongly by the Communication and Marketing Department, improved measurement and monitoring of water usage, the installation of over 60 digital water meters that are capable of monitoring water use in real time, an online reporting system that is being used to detect leaks and anomalies in water flow, the establishment of a water desk to monitor all queries related to water on campus, the conversion of baths to showers, the retrofitting of toilet cisterns, and the installation of aerators in basin taps.

Progress has been made if we consider our municipal records for January to July 2018 compared with the results of 2015 water-use patterns for the same period:

  • UCT residences achieved a 55% reduction in water usage.
  • The Graduate Schoolof Business (GSB) campus achieved a 47% reduction in water usage.
  • Results for other campuses, excluding the GSB, are difficult to determine due to the increase in the number of active water meters in 2018 (by as much as 32%) compared with 2015 records. However, even with the undercount, all campuses showed a reduction of 11% in water usage.

The increased cost of water will impact on UCT’s operating budget. From January to July this year, UCT residences faced an increase of 43% (R3.4 million) compared with the same period in 2015, and an increase of 70% (R7 million) on all other campuses, excluding the GSB with a slightly lower increase of 28% (R128 000). A relaxation to Level 5 restrictions will only have a marginal impact on the cost of water for UCT.

I am very grateful to all the members of the WTT and everyone who is making a contribution to saving water.

We believe that the water crisis presents an opportunity for improving long-term water management and security, but also to link energy and waste into the overall sustainability programme for UCT. We have done well but need to continue efforts over the next years.

Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

Read the full report.

Read more about the Cape Town water crisis.

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