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UCT aims to become net zero water university by 2050

The University of Cape Town (UCT) has collaborated with engineering consultancy Zutari to develop and implement a sustainable water management strategy that will result in a reduction of 429 megalitres (ML) of annual municipal water demand on its campuses by 2050. This is equivalent to over 170 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Net zero water is when the water demand met from the municipal supply equals the water demand met from alternative supply options, such as rainwater harvesting, when measured over a period of a year. Reducing the municipal and total water demand at UCT’s campuses will be achieved by progressively implementing various reduction interventions and innovative alternative water-supply options.

Carshif Talip, project manager, Zutari
Carshif Talip, project manager, Zutari

Bottom-up end-use model


According to Zutari project manager Carshif Talip, the approach used in developing the strategy included several design-led brainstorm workshops and interactions with the stakeholder and extensive data collection on toilet flushing volumes and shower and tap flow rates. Special vibration sensors linked to data loggers recorded typical shower duration times. A bottom-up end-use model was developed to determine the water use of each activity for each residence based on the characteristics of the residence.

Zutari will also lead the design and construction implementation phase across the projects on the various campuses for UCT.


Living laboratory


“A key focus of the strategy is for the campus to act as a living laboratory that allows students to learn and undertake research through campus facility-based projects. This exposes students to real-life projects to learn from or conduct research on, and at the same time it gives all students on campus visibility of these projects as they pass through the campus facilities,” says Manfred Braune, director of environmental sustainability at UCT.

Infrastructure records will be consolidated and, together with new additional smart water meters and digital platforms, provide an improved understanding of water usage across UCT. Following this, UCT will monitor how water is being used, how much water is being lost to leaks and demand fluctuations at a building level. This data will be used to better inform and direct social or infrastructure interventions.

The action plan outlines the specific interventions needed to address each of the main commitments and assumes a 30-year planning horizon to achieve the vision of a net zero water campus. It also involves a combination of infrastructure upgrades, operational optimisations and community awareness programmes.

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