Despite the fact that we are in what is rapidly becoming a MONUMENTAL water crisis here in Cape Town, and folk are bleating about mass closures of schools, businesses and yes, Universities, at my place of work we do not seem to be doing very much at all. There is no thought of grey water recycling; toilets flush long and voluminously; water flows under the place I park my car unfettered by any thought of collection.
Why is this? Why are we so laggardly, in an institution with a Future Water Institute, and with some of the more imaginative engineers in the country?
I don’t know. What I do know is that on our Upper Campus, we have what amounts to one of the biggest consolidated rainwater collecting surfaces under the control of one administration – and it’s often either flat, and/or has convenient downpipes coming off all roofs.
Simply rerouting flow from existing downpipes into cheap large-volume storage tanks should be easy – and given that 2 cm of rain in my dog’s bowl translates into 1 000 litres of rainwater from a 50 m2 roof at my home, 5 – 10 kL tanks should be standard everywhere.
That means we have the opportunity to collect an unprecedentedly large volume of runoff from even modest rains – which could be reasonably easily plumbed into circuits for toilets, for example. Given the economies of scale that work at the size of this establishment, and the presence of the engineers and Institute mentioned earlier, UCT could even purify it and supply it to taps.
I have suggested we pool resources in our building – Molecular Biology – and see if we can provide some tanks for rainwater NOW. It would be a good start.