Day Zero Readiness Preparations Ongoing

By Water Crisis Management Team and Human Resources

Plans to support basic emergency relief efforts ahead of a looming Day Zero are ongoing, which will see the closure of certain ablution blocks, the addition of portable toilets and securing of fresh drinking water at key locations.

These preparations have become necessary with Day Zero looming when the taps are expected to run dry for large parts of Nelson Mandela, including the University’s North, South, Ocean Sciences, Second Avenue and Bird Street Campuses.

Certain ablution blocks are being closed to enable more effective management of water and related hygiene matters. Portable toilets are being introduced so that alternative facilities are available for the emergency period when the taps run dry.

In the interim, we are grateful for the rain that has fallen in the catchment areas as this will hopefully offer some reprieve in holding off Day Zero. It will also give the University more time for introducing its alternative water source supplies (borehole and reclaimed water) as explained below.  

Emergency period

The University’s key priority is to ensure that the University’s students are able to continue with their studies and complete the 2022 academic year.

To enable this, during the emergency period (until the University is able to introduce its alternative water source supplies), please take note of the following:

  • If possible, to bring your own drinking bottled water onto campus
  • Use water sparingly from the designated drinking water tanks
  • Liaise with line managers as per working arrangements
  • Go to the sustainability website for all supporting information

Remaining functional

The COVID-19 pandemic required a reduction of numbers on campus to mitigate against the chances of contracting the virus. The water crisis requires us to drastically reduce water consumption but still keep the University operating.

Essential services are critical in ensuring that the institution is able to function – through the ongoing supply of catering, cleaning, security, ICT, technical, administration, health services and the like, as well as providing key internal and external services.

While it will be advisable to reduce on-campus numbers during the Phase 1: Emergency Day Zero Period, it is imperative that students’ day-to-day needs are met so that they are able to complete their studies.

Functional departmental meetings

To assist staff with what is expected and to provide greater understanding and appreciation of the water crisis challenges, a series of meetings with different stakeholder groups will be held virtually across the institution by Human Resources. This will offer you the opportunity to ask questions.

Phase 1: Emergency Period

The Emergency period will start when the taps run dry, and end as soon as the alternative water source supplies (reclaimed water and boreholes) at the University are implemented, and Phase 2 is introduced.

Phase 1 will be an uncomfortable period of fetching water for washing, drinking and flushing of toilets.

It will also be an expensive exercise – as trucking in fresh municipal water for residence students and day staff and students is set to cost about R3 million a month, which will be difficult to sustain.

Phase 2: Alternative Water Supplies  

Contractors are already on site to connect all boreholes on North, Ocean Sciences and Second Avenue campuses. This water will be fed into the municipal reticulation system to enable semi-normal functioning.

Dependent on the volume and quality of the water from the boreholes, this supply may also be acceptable for washing and cleaning.

Reclaimed water from our own water works system on campus will also be piped into the reticulation system on South Campus to enable flushing of toilets. 

Again, as with the boreholes, testing, filtration and treatment of this water, also means there is a good possibility, going forward, of its usage for washing and cleaning.

These efforts are all part of the University’s long-term plans to be more sustainable and less reliant on expensive municipal water.

It is hoped that these interventions will be in place by mid-August. 

Continue to save

By cutting back on our consumption – as many concerned, responsible staff, students and other citizens have been doing for some time – we can hold back the Day Zero timeline.

This will “buy time” for the University to get its medium-term alternative water source plans in place by August to enable completion of the 2022 Academic Year.

Your changed water usage behaviours, in using less than the maximum of 50 litres a day, are critical now and in the future on our water scarce continent.

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