WHILE the dam levels in the Western Cape have improved slightly in recent weeks, currently standing at approximately 70%, Cape residents and indeed the wider South African population should not forget that South Africa is a water scarce country. This is the view of Chris Campbell, CEO of Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA). “The severe drought of 2018, where dam levels were at 30% at best is still a recent memory, and something that our people should continue to keep in mind,” comments Campbell. He says that the City of Cape Town has exhibited excellent water saving behaviour, and that other South African cities should be encouraged to follow suit.
In efforts to save water, building owners have been increasingly adopting rainwater harvesting (RWH) systems. This has become a common feature for residential buildings. Further, there has been increased interest in grey water recycling. Grey water recycling can help reclaim water used from baths, showers, handwash basins, and laundry water. Depending on the size of the system and the filtration applied, the recycled water can be used for irrigation, flushing toilets, and topping up swimming pools.
However, Campbell warns that if these systems are not properly designed and maintained, things can become extremely unpleasant, with fowl smelling water and costly system failures. He explains: “As the demand for water-saving systems has increased in recent years, many companies have popped up claiming to be experts in applying these systems to homes, offices and hotels. People considering implementing these solutions in their buildings should keep in mind that the design and construction of these systems must comply with the National Building Regulations (NBR) SANS 10400.” The NBR fall under the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act (Act 103 of 1977), which governs all building and construction work in South Africa.
“CESA is proud to have many member organisations who are well-versed in these regulations and can deliver world-class water-saving systems for buildings of all sizes,” adds Campbell. “Consumers need to ensure they do their research when deciding which company to work with, and not just hire the first company promoting their services.”
“Consulting engineers play an important role in helping buildings achieve a Green Star Rating, as developed by the Green Building Council South Africa,” explains Campbell. The rating provides an objective measurement for green buildings in South Africa, with a strong focus on water use. ’Africa’s Greenest Hotel’ can be found in Cape Town, having achieved its six-star rating in 2019. It makes use of a comprehensive grey water recycling system.
“Buildings and developments currently in planning phases should place emphasis on water-saving solutions, regardless of current dam levels. Water saving should be a national priority, and the construction sector has a prominent role to play in this,” concludes Campbell.