Project Manager at Zutari Carshif Talip. Image credit: Zutari

10 November 2020 – Engineering consultants Zutari will assist the University of Cape Town in South Africa to become a net zero water university by 2050.

Implementation of a sustainable water management strategy developed by Zutari will result in a reduction of 429 million litres (ML) of the annual municipal water demand at the University of Cape Town (UCT) by 2050, equivalent to more than 170 Olympic-sized swimming pools

In working towards its goal of being a net zero water campus by 2050, the University of Cape Town (UCT) has collaborated with engineering consultancy Zutari to develop a sustainable water management strategy. This is based on research driven by its Future Water Institute on the implementation of water-sensitive design principles, especially in the wake of the 2017-2018 drought in Cape Town.

Net zero water is when the water demand met from the municipal supply equals the water demand met from alternative supply options such as rainwater harvesting when measured over a period of a year. Implementation of the strategy will result in a reduction of 429 ML of the annual municipal water demand at UCT by 2050, which is equivalent to more than 170 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Reducing the municipal and total water demand at UCT’s campuses will be achieved by progressively implementing various reduction interventions and innovative alternative water-supply options.

Here Zutari adopted an innovative bottom-up approach in developing the strategy, explains project manager Carshif Talip. Examples include several design-led brainstorm workshops and interactions with stakeholder and extensive data collection on toilet flushing volumes and shower and tap flow rates. Special vibration sensors linked to data loggers record typical shower duration times. A bottom-up end-use model was developed to determine the water use of each activity for each residence based on the characteristics of the residence.

Zutari will also lead the design and construction implementation phase across the projects on various campuses for UCT. “The strategy is now complete, and implementation is in full swing. Thank you to the Zutari team, which has been doing most of the legwork in getting us to this point,” says Manfred Braune, director of environmental sustainability at UCT.

“A key focus of the strategy is for the campus to act as a Living Laboratory that allows students to learn and undertake research through campus facility-based projects. This exposes students to real-life projects to learn from or conduct research on, and at the same time it gives all students on campus visibility of these projects as they pass through the campus facilities,” says Braune.

Infrastructure records will be consolidated and, together with new additional smart water meters and digital platforms, provide an improved understanding of water usage across UCT. Following this, UCT will monitor how water is being used, how much water is being lost to leaks and demand fluctuations at a building level. This data will better inform and direct social or infrastructure interventions.

The action plan outlines the specific interventions needed to address each of the main commitments and assumes a 30-year planning horizon to achieve the vision of a net zero water campus. It also involves a combination of infrastructure upgrades, operational optimisations and community awareness programmes. This will require significant resources and will take several years before the benefits are fully realised.

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