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Nelson Mandela University is spearheading a R20-million project to increase the amount of return-effluent water it uses to irrigate its sports fields, as one of several on-campus initiatives to save water.

The Cape Recife Waste Water Treatment Works already pumps around 30 kilolitres of return effluent water to the university each month, but this could soon be increased to around 900 kilolitres per week.

“The existing system was never geared for large volumes of water and will need to be adapted. But through this project, we are hoping to meet all the irrigation needs for all sports fields on both North and South Campus,” said Nelson Mandela University sustainability engineer Andre Hefer.

An environmental impact assessment will be completed by mid-year, with phase 1 of the project, worth R9-million and geared towards South Campus’s irrigation needs, expected to start later this year. This will be followed by phase 2 in 2019/20, which is worth R11-million, to address North Campus’s irrigation requirements. The non-potable water needs of Sanlam Student Village (SSV) Residences and the Ocean Sciences Campus will also be addressed.

“The water will be purely for irrigation,” said Hefer. In addition to saving potable water, the university will also be saving money.

“Potable water costs around R18 per kilolitre, while return effluent water costs in the region of R2.20 per kilolitre.”

This project has also sparked the start of an investigation into the possible use of “new water” on campus, where return-effluent water is cleaned to a high-quality standard for domestic use and is safe to drink.

“Cities like Windhoek in Namibia and Beaufort West already supplement their water supply with ‘new water’ to meet their cities’ water needs.”

The university is also researching the possibility of sinking additional boreholes on campus. There is one existing borehole on North Campus and one on Ocean Sciences Campus, which is currently not in use.

All these initiatives are being run by the university’s water task team, which includes management as well as academic and administrative staff, and is also running on-campus campaigns to encourage students and staff to use less water.

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