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UWC implements game changers to become responsible global citizens with its water-wise programme

Author: Harriet Box

The University of the Western Cape's Water Resilience Project

(Published - 30 August 2019)

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) continues to build on its status as the greenest campus in Africa. As part of its water management and sustainability plan the University is launching two game changers that are of great significance to its role as a responsible global citizen.

Firstly, the University has installed the UWC Borehole Water Purification Plant that treats and purifies underground water from an aquifer on its campus grounds. The second initiative is the installation of an atmospheric water generator to harvest water from the atmosphere.

The water produced will be utilised to meet the University’s general water requirements, according to Mr Jairaj Ramchander, Director of Infrastructure and Engineering.

Mr Manie Regal, UWC’s Executive Director: Finance and Services, says UWC had to adapt and prepare for the realities of climate change. He says all the warnings and predictions thus far, which include the recent drought in the Western Cape, have been spot on.

 “We realised UWC needed to change its relationship with water. We needed water users on campus to be more aware of their habits, and the University intensified interventions with regards to the preservation conservation and efficient use of water. The reduction of water waste, for example the fixing of leaks and the upgrading of plumbing and pipe infrastructure on campus, have been prioritised. Only with user education and creating awareness can there be a change in behaviour,” he says.

Even before the advent of the worst drought the Cape has experienced in 100 years, the University’s management launched its Water Resilience Initiative. UWC’s Infrastructure and Engineering Department steered the construction of the UWC Borehole Water Purification Plant near the Sports Stadium. Water collected from boreholes is put through a rigorous purification processes until it yields mineral-rich potable water.

Regal says the UWC Borehole Water Purification Plant can produce 500 000 litres of potable water per day.

In addition to the plant, the University acquired an atmospheric water generator to harvest water from the atmosphere. This generator yields about 2 000 litres of potable (drinkable) water per day.

The plant and the generator will be connected to the University’s general domestic supply network. The City of Cape Town has been involved in the process and conducted its own stringent tests.

 “When we acquired the atmospheric water generator, it was a decision driven by a need to make use of existing technology to harness the abundance of humidity in the air,” says Ramchander.

Dam levels in the Western Cape are rising, but the Department of Water and Sanitation is concerned about areas such as the Klein Karoo, the Greater Karoo, Central Breede River and the Southern Cape. The department's spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau, said there had been “little to no” rain in these areas in four years. While the dam levels have improved in Cape Town users should not become complacent.

Regal says that UWC will continue to find innovative solutions to honour its obligation as a responsible global citizen.

“Generally, there is denial around climate change, but we have taken ownership by means of the UWC Water Resilience Programme. It is a matter of preservation and protection of our water resources, as well as of self-sufficiency,” he says.

“The project has taken three years to reach completion. The entire process is compliant (with authorities) and will form part of UWC’s water supply.”

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