New alternatives for water conservation

It is now a “moral imperative” for big businesses operating in South Africa to consider water saving strategies for their buildings, and in so doing assisting the country preserve the declining resource.

CEO of car rental company Avis, Wayne Duvenage, did not mince his words at the Sustainable Water Resource Conference and Exhibition. The event, was attended by reputable water specialists and business people and supported by the International Marketing Council of South Africa – among a range of sponsors.

Recycling water for reuse in buildings was the experts’ principal unbiased and professional recommendation. Homeowners are also encouraged to choose recycling technologies.


Avis saved 75-million litres of water in 2010 within its major centres in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.

The Avis scheme started in 2008 with a R1.9-million (US$264 000) investment, and started paying off in 2009 the moment the company saved 4.2-million litres.

Avis has injected an additional R1.5-million ($208 000) into the building of underground water filtration and recycling facilities at its three main depots. The objective is to save a minimum of 95-million litres of water on an annual basis.

“We made a decision to recycle water for the reason that it was the right thing to do,” said Duvenage. “We’re recycling water that was going down the drain.”


The company reprocesses grey water from washing machines and baths, which is then utilized to wash the vast majority of its fleet of 20 000 rental cars, at the same time potable water from public sources continues to be accessible to employees for hygienic use.

Harvesting rainwater is a focus of Avis’ recycling endeavours. “You know how much it rains in Cape Town, consequently it’s nice to switch off municipal water and make use of rainwater,” suggested Duvenage.

It’s always encouraged for entities to examine the impact of their business on the environment, he mentioned.


Conserving a irreplaceable resource


South Africa is water-stressed, industry professionals at the conference disclosed. Reports have pointed out that the country runs the potential risk of facing critical shortages by 2020.

“South Africa is stressed both in the quantity and quantity of water that we have,” Duvenage said.

Alison Groves, a sustainability consultant at WSP Green by Design, stated: “In South Africa we need to get beyond the concept that water is always going to be readily available.”

New solutions are required to sustain potable water availability, Groves added.

Her consultancy group has established itself as a leader in the industry in the greening of major buildings, having made it easier for big companies such as Absa, Nedbank and Woolworths introduce water-saving and eco-friendly schemes in their properties.


Banking group Absa’s headquarters in in the downtown area Johannesburg have already been fitted with recycling and rainwater harvesting technology which enables it to save no less than 43 000 litres of water on a daily basis.

Retailer Woolworths’ distribution centre in Midrand, north of Johannesburg, is yet another facility with a large grey water reclamation system. Groves remarked that the centre has “irrigation ensured for 10 months per year without making use of potable water”.

Woolworths saves R1-million ($139 000) in municipal water bills per year as a result of its recycling initiatives.

Various other organizations, which includes South African Breweries, are rolling out major water-saving schemes in an attempt to help safeguard the precious resource.

Duvenage remarked that “business is beginning to alter its behaviour” in accordance with the green revolution, however, there is room for improvement. “We believe business needs to act considerably quicker,” he said.


Residences can reduce consumption


It’s not merely businesses and public entities that ought to assume the responsibility of saving water, but homeowners can play a major role at the same time.

The grey water technology of Cape Town-based Water Rhapsody, a specialist water conservation company, has demonstrated its efficiency in recent times.

Its founder Jeremy Westgarth-Taylor stated that water recycled and harvested as a result of its system is well suited for irrigation, toilet flushing, cleaning and washing.

Homes can help reduce consumption from 280 litres to “as little as 100 litres per day” and save up to 90% of their municipal water bill by utilizing the system.


“But it’s designed in such a way that you don’t change your lifestyle. You simply take control of your own supply,” said Westgarth-Taylor.

Water Rhapsody won the WWF Green Trust award in 1998 for product innovation. It’s aided the the University of Cape Town reduce potable water consumption by over 90%.

The late Kader Asmal, former Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, told Water Rhapsody, in a 2010 letter to the company, that its water recycling system helped nourish grass and shrubs in the garden of his Cape Town home.



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