As a water-scarce continent and an institution that prioritises sustainability and has earth stewardship as a value, the way Nelson Mandela University saves water now through its various strategies will be key in how we view – and use – water in the long-term.

While recent rain, and falls expected this week have given the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro and our institution a short reprieve in terms of Day Zero (the combined level of our dams is at 12,2%), we should continue to save water and develop a new appreciation of its worth. See Prof Syden Mishi’s article on changing our behaviour when it comes to water usage.

At present, demand continues to outpace supply across the Metro despite an extensive water-saving campaign and other expansive measures, including that of reprioritising some R363m of the municipal budget to water crisis interventions.

Mandela University interventions

The University is also investing in various projects to drastically bring down its own usage, and is pleased to see that the initial average per person daily figure of 165 litres (when the measuring tool was first introduced in late July) has fallen to about 91 litres per person, which a 45% saving.

The trend shows that we can do it, and indeed it is in our hands. This is still above the mandatory consumption of less than 50 litres per person per day, but a promising step in the right direction, and shows that together, we can make a difference.

A sustained 45% saving will get us to this target within a week. This equates to almost halving the water use: for example, if you currently take four minutes in the shower, make it two minutes. Similarly, instead of washing dishes twice a day, wash them once and brush your teeth by using water from a glass instead of water directly from a tap.


The University thanks those who have adapted their behaviour to save water and commends the establishment of the water champions projects and other initiatives being implemented by the student residences, both on and off-campus.

Practical solutions

It also acknowledges the practical solutions for reducing water usage as is being implemented by Infrastructure and Space Optimisation teams. These include:

  • The implementation of 95 x 5000 litre water tanks across our campuses
  • The introduction of 150 flush valves to toilets
  • The identification of suitable sites for water tankers to provide water to support the ablution sets on campus
  • Improved laundry management in the student residences
  • Planned water outages in student residences to test drive the Day Zero status of no water in the taps
  • The introduction of water champions to drive new water saving behaviours
  • The hosting of virtual engagements with students for understanding, appreciation and buy-in of the water-saving efforts

Alternative water sources

At present, the University is mostly reliant on municipal water, but is exploring all other options, along with their associated benefits and challenges. These are:

  • Rainwater harvesting, which given the country’s rainwater patterns, is unreliable, but worthy of pursuing.
  • Return effluent is already being successful used to irrigate sports fields and test connections to flush toilets at identified residences is in effect.
  • Boreholes. While the University already has two inactive boreholes, it has established that it would need a further 11 at about R11m, to support the institution’s needs. However, there are huge ethical and environmental risks to this.
  • Desalination. This is a costly exercise.
  • Emergency water tanks. Filling up these emergency tanks will also be a costly exercise and is certainly not sustainable long-term.

The immediately available, less costly, and sustainable solution is for each of us to use water wisely [less than 50litres per person per day]. Treasure every drop of water as if it is the last!

Day-Zero Readiness

The University has a series of measures and processes in place to support the day that the taps run dry, which at the present rate of consumption and without any further substantive rain, will be in October.

It is only through our individual and collective efforts to save water that we can push out Day Zero and save the academic year.

Read the original article here.

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