System makes every drop count

Hector Peterson Secondary School principal Mike Mavovana, Shoprite CEO Pieter Engelbrecht and Stellenbosch University lecturer Professor Thinus Booysen.

A Wallacedene high school is piloting an innovative device that has the potential to save both millions of litres of water and millions of rands.

The smart water meter is called the Dropula and was designed by Stellenbosch University lecturer Professor Thinus Booysen and developed in partnership with Bridgiot, a spin-out company from the university that develops smart internet connected devices.

The meter has been installed at Hector Peterson Secondary School and is helping pupils and teachers see exactly how much water they are using.

The meter is fitted to the municipal water supply which is monitored by an app. Alerts about unusually high water use are emailed or SMSed to staff and pupils.

“Smart water metering not only aids behaviour change due to increased awareness about water consumption, it also assists with the prevention of water losses due to leaks that would otherwise have gone unnoticed,” said Professor Booysen.

The Shoprite Group has now agreed to fund the roll-out and maintenance of the devices at 100 of Cape Town’s top water-guzzling schools.

“The Shoprite Group will buy the meters, pay for installation and help fund maintenance at the schools and we expect significant results,” said Lunga Schoeman, of Shroprite.

He said before Dropula was installed at Hector Peterson, the school had used 47kl each weekday and 37kl on Saturdays and Sundays. The school had now dropped its water usage by 72% to about 13kl on weekdays and by 100% on weekends.

In the process, the school has saved about R50 000 a month.

Hector Peterson principal Mike Mavovana said the initiative was a blessing.

“This is a good initiative and it also empowers us. We are saving both water and money and hoping that the project will also change the behaviour of the pupils on how to save water.”

Xanthea Limberg, the City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services and energy, said that while “phenomenal work” had been done bringing the city’s consumption down from 1.1 billion litres a day to below 600 million litres, the City’s estimates showed that only half of Capetonians were saving water.

“We need to see the remainder who are not saving water doing much more to save,” she said.

Under Level 5 water restrictions all residents must limit water consumption to less than 87 litres per person per day.

“It must be emphasised that water saving efforts must go beyond the household and must extend to all aspects of our lives.

“A five minute shower can use between 40 litres and 70 litres and flushing a toilet uses 6 to 21 litres depending on the size of the cistern,” she said.