This topic is on everyone’s tongue due to the extent, impact and uncertainties of such a one in a hundred year drought. Ways to save water, and new sources of water, are the order of the day on all media platforms and from all agencies. The most recent thrust deals with your water usage at your place of work since. You control your home consumption but, when at work, you approach this with a different mindset.

It got me thinking about how to manage and possibly control such usage. However, since it is the silly season, I approached it with a silly mindset, using technology already in the building. Here are some of my solutions

  1. Install an automated refractometer which can measure soluble solids in the loo. Under a certain solids limit the loo would not flush, thus taking the desire to flush away from the user. This is the cheaper route. It could be done via a spectrophotometric sensor to comply with the “mellow yellow” concept. An even more expensive concept would be a sipper cell in which a colourimetric reaction could be initiated occasionally to determine flushability.
  2. It could also be suggested that no solid waste disposal is to take place in all the loos. Much knyping would be encouraged. Any liquid waste should be encouraged to be done behind a tree.
  3. A sniffer detector attached to a GC-MS could be used to monitor people approaching a tap/urn for coffee. Based on the identification of tea or coffee aroma, hot water would only be released (330ml). For cold drinking water, limit the release to 330ml only without any option of a repeat in under 60 minutes. However, the latter will require some form of identification of the user. This could be done via near infrared spectroscopy of the skin using appropriate software. We have this capacity in the department.
  4. Copious sweating of all staff will be encouraged to push up the humidity in the hope of the increased load of water in the air, together with the updraft due to increased temperature, may cause air to rise, with consequent adiabatic cooling followed by precipitation. This “rain” however must be trapped and stored and would thus require a “dam” of sorts, possibly in the foyer. It could possibly also be pumped to the relevant cisterns to assist with flushing.
  5. All grey water could be funnelled toward a new “soak away” or natural sump behind the Pilot Plant where it could be cleaned by natural processes and pumped back to be re-used. This could also act as a natural lake around which we could build a golf course for putting and chipping practice. This could then generate funds to assist with any capital expenditure related to points above.
  6. On a serious note, some of the equipment in the Pilot Plant needs a lot of water periodically e.g. boiler and retorts, especially the water curtain retort. A holding tank fed by municipal water should be installed (1000 litres) to ensure water needed for processing is on hand, even if the water supply is cut. This is not a solution but is merely a stop-gap if water is cut during a production run. Funding will be sought for this.
  7. As a group, we should also look to doing some research into dehydrated water. This would allow us to store large quantities in small containers for use as need.
  8. Finally, no staff will be allowed to use water as a chaser in their alcoholic drinks at work.

On a very serious note, as a group and as CPUT, we need to do a water usage audit and come up with ways to change our behavior toward a smaller water footprint.

All suggestions welcome, tongue in cheek or otherwise.

Larry Dolley