Water conservation through Tukkies

The tertiary institution has realised its need to save water

Tukkies university is conserving water with Shared Energy Management


The University of Pretoria, also fondly known as ‘Tukkies’ realised it could save significantly on water consumption when Shared Energy Management (SEM) approached them in 2007 with a proposal to measure, manage and optimise their water consumption across its three campuses. Five years later, the university with the assistance of SEM realised a 60% saving in water consumption. 

Shared Energy Manageent (SEM) was appointed to measure,quantify, manage and implement pragmatic solutions. The shared-risk model assured that there was no risk to the university as SEM would only be remunerated if savings were realised.

Rip Wyma, director at SEM, has been spearheading the drive at the university. It is part of SEM’s methodology to, not only lower the water consumption but also understand where and how the water is being used.

Mohammed Patel, project and business development manager at SEM, says that comprehensive water audits uncover any costly inefficiency in a water distribution system that could be resulting in wastage. ''Following a step-by-step process we can help any organisation make informed decisions about water management, usage optimisation and expected water savings.''

It was with this process that they set about auditing the university's usage and put them on the right track to efficient, and effective water utilisation.  

According to a spokesperson from the university’s Facilities Maintenance and Operations Department, the decision to secure the services of SEM was, in large part, due to the fact that the university had no idea what the actual consumption was or how to measure it accurately. This meant management and a reduction in consumption was almost impossible. ''We had no idea to what extent the problem had escalated, and we had no idea how to go about quantifying the problems.

The SEM methodology seemed to answer all our questions as it is based on the scientific approach of measuring. Once you know what the problem is, you can address it. This measuring process is the very first, and most prominent, benefit within the service offering of SEM, and it is an ongoing part of the process. Once the meters are in place you can track consumption, accurately, on a daily basis, which is of immense value - and the monumental achievement of installing measurement devices will serve us, theoretically, in perpetuity.''

SEM is currently involved on three sites on campus namely Groenkloof, Onderstepoort, and Main Campus. ''Our pilot project, which commenced 5 years ago, was at Onderstepoort,'' says Wyma, ''where we did the on-site audit, installed the meters, and started measuring usage. From the data gathered a baseline was calculated and we submitted the potential projected savings to the university and were given the green light.”

What made this first project challenging was the fact that leaks were spread across the entire site and had to be dealt with. To quantify the job, we have to understand that, when working on a reticulation system which is up to 100 years old, you have to deal with pipe-work which may be in a state of decay. To further complicate matters the designers of the original infrastructure and subsequent custodians, would add, bypass, or reroute supply pipes as required to solve problems, and these changes were often not documented.

As a result, there were many buildings with various supply channels, some working, some not. This meant we could not simply cut into a line and install a meter or isolating valve. It took a long time, and massive effort, to ensure that we had all the supply routes mapped and metered. Once this was done we shared the information with the client so that they had a complete set of records going forward. Over the five year period consumption was brought down from an original base measurement of 357 335 m3 per year to an annual average of 118 167 m3 - this reduction equates to almost 100 Olympic sized swimming pools of water saved every year.

 Soon after the project commenced at Onderstepoort, SEM moved onto the Groenkloof campus. ''At Groenkloof, the major challenge was the mains pipe replacement which took extensive investigation to zone the campus and indentify the areas where the problems were.

Isolating and defining zones is an important and integral approach to this process and is a useful tool going forward as far as maintenance is concerned. On this campus, which included the mens’ residence, consumption came down from a base of 206 385 m3 to an average of 84 280 m3 per year - this saving equates to a line of two litre Coke bottles, if laid end to end, that would reach  around the earth from the north to the south pole.

The final leg to the project was the Main Campus, situated in Lynwood Road Pretoria, which was started in 2008. This area includes a portion of the ladies residences and supplies the Nerina, Jasmyn and Klaradyn residences to name but a few. Although SEM is only three years into the main campus project and the savings are already substantial. The current average consumption is 210 426 m3, down from 503 587 m3 per year. 

In essence, the service offering of SEM makes them responsible for water management, thereby putting the burden on them to identify water losses, and to assist in driving consumption, and misuse down. According to the university spokesperson, there are also secondary benefits derived which represent value-added services that were not expected.

''During a council audit, the burden fell to us to present  an overview of the actions taken to comply with the council requirements when it comes to identification, recognition, and registration of all the supply points coming in from the council.. This would have been a daunting task, to say the least, but SEM presented their findings and the council accepted them without hesitation.''

The second, unexpected, value-add was realised when the campus started utilising its borehole capacity to the maximum. ''One of the basic tenets of our overall plan is to minimise the use of treated, scarce fresh water for irrigation purposes wherever possible and substitute with borehole water instead.'' says Wyma. ''The majority of borehole capacity was unexplored, and underused but is now a vital part of the system and is realising significant savings.''

SEM has undertaken to monitor and manage the water saving efforts over a five year period and, with Onderstepoort reaching the end of term, the savings are evident. The university spokesperson notes that, overall, a 60% reduction in water use has been realised which makes water available for 1500 Tshwane households every year and translates into a significant Rand value.

''It must, however, be stressed that return on investment must never be solely based on the bottom line. SEM adds value by pointing out what the future effect will be the moment they detect a trend. This trend analysis brings to the fore tendencies, indications of possible deviations or major losses which can then be negated or planned for. Coupled to that, once all the leaks on a particular site have been addressed, the wastage on site is significantly reduced.


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