School saves water with Coenie’s contraption

A caretaker at a Goodwood school has designed a makeshift water fountain, called “Coenie’s contraption”, that is just one of the countless innovations Capetonians are using to save water.

It’s this sort of ingenuity, along with a drop in agricultural water usage, that has helped to push Day Zero back to Monday June 4, according to the City of Cape Town.

Coenradt Erasmus, of Brackenfell, is the grounds manager at Goodwood Park Primary School.

He’s only been at the school since January, but his device has scored some big water savings.

It uses a 20-litre bucket, with a push button tap attached to the bottom.

“These contraptions are placed strategically across the school and are only used for drinking water,” Mr Erasmus said.

Pupils have been asked to take their own sealed bottles of water to school. This water is poured into the “Coenie’s contraption”, reducing the school’s reliance on the municipal supply.

Principal Juan Rossouw said the school had started implementing water-saving measures at the start of the year.

“We alerted our pupils at assemblies and through the intercom system and sent out notices to their parents,” he said.

So far the school has received only 26 sealed 5-litre bottles from parents, and Mr Rossouw is encouraging them to send more.

The school also plans to set up seven 5 000-litre tanks to service the ablution facilities.

“We are also in the process of installing a connection to the Athlone pump station to secure effluent water usage at the school.

“We need roughly R130 000 for these initiatives, which we are securing from the school’s non-budgeted money and money from the school’s supporters club fund. We hope to make up this money during the school’s 50th anniversary fund-raising initiatives,” he said.

Treated effluent, or recycled water, is wastewater that has been treated at a wastewater treatment facility and then transported through a separate network of pipes for irrigation and industrial purposes.

Mr Rossouw said the school would get more water from Willem Postma Primary School in Bloemfontein.

“The principal, Jaco Kotze, has agreed to donate water to us. At the moment, we are looking at logistical ways to transport the water, to Cape Town,” he said.

Mr Rossouw said the drought had had a significant impact on the school’s sporting activities, and they hoped to use effluent water for limited irrigation.

“We have no borehole at the school. A drawback of using the effluent water supply is that we can only make use of it on Tuesdays and Thursdays after 8pm in the evening and before 6am in the morning,” he said.

The school has 1242 pupils, a teaching staff of 32 and 28 governing-body members.

“We have lowered our usage, as a school, from 12 to 15kl per day to 3.5kl per day, which, on average, means each person is consuming roughly 3 litres of water a day,” Mr Rossouw said.

Pupils have been asked to take sealed drinking water to school and touch-release drinking fountains have been placed in the bathrooms.

Mr Rossouw said the Grade 1s had built “Water Man”, a school mascot, to drive home the water-saving message. And it’s a message that is filtering into many homes in the school community, including the Rossouws.

“At home, my son, Jean Pierre, 11, challenges my wife, Estelle, and me to save water,” said Mr Rossouw.

“We have a sort of competition going in our household to determine who can have the shortest shower. When he brushes his teeth he would spit the remnants straight into the toilet. He also goes around the house in search of drips. He will then place the dog’s bowl under the dripping tap to make sure we don’t waste even a drop of water. It’s amazing, how pupils have learnt during a very short space of time to be conscientious of their water usage. It’s a change in mindset that will stay with them for the rest of their lives and when they are parents they will be able to teach it to their children.”

Last week, the national Department of Water and Sanitation launched the country’s water mascot, Splash, as part of its #savewater campaign.

Meanwhile deputy mayor Ian Neilson, said daily citywide water consumption had dropped to 526 million litres.

“This is the first time that the weekly average usage has remained under 550 million litres due to the City’s pressure management interventions and the efforts by our residents to use as little water as possible.”

A year ago, the average water demand had been 830 million litres a day, he said.