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Spending to save water has long-term benefits

The water crisis in the Western Cape may be foremost in residents’ minds, but it is an issue that is important for everyone living in South Africa.

The concern about “D-Day” or “Day Zero” in that province should be shared by all South Africans as the preservation of this precious resource is a national – and global – responsibility.

The City of Cape Town has put increasingly stringent measures in place to stem the flow of water being used, and not only in households. 
Commercial buildings have been tasked with reducing their overall water consumption by 20% compared to the previous year. Failure to do so will not only put water supply under increased pressure, it will also see companies face penalties.

It can, however, be a challenge to quickly change water use behaviour among employees in office buildings, says Sean Paul, executive director of Spire Property Management. This is because they are not directly singled out in total water usage figures for that building as they are in their homes. 

Even more difficult to change are the habits of customers through a retail space, which may have hundreds of feet through its doors every day.

“Because of this, landlords need to implement water-saving methods that take the onus out of the hands of employees or customers and impose water saving as an unavoidable culture within that building.” 

This is also the reason behind Spire’s Water Saving Toolkit, which provides a list of practical options for landlords to slow water flow within commercial buildings.
Immediate interventions are needed, and Paul terms these as “low-hanging fruit” that can be easily and cost-effectively implemented within commercial properties, “before even looking at the complex and costly technology that can be employed to reduce water consumption”.

Measures Spire is rolling out include:
● Installing synthetic lawn, turning off or limiting irrigation of gardens, or replacing landscaping with succulents and other water-wise plants. 
● Adjusting flush valves to reduce flow in toilets.
● Adjusting water-flow duration and pressure from basin taps if taps are automated.
● Turning off all water features and fountains.
● Installing aerators on bathroom taps.
● Considering turning off water to basins and providing waterless hand sanitisers.
● Converting urinals to waterless ones.
● Placing locks on all external taps to avoid abuse.
● When draining fire protection systems (sprinklers), water must be redirected into tanks or inflatable storage then pumped back into the system or used in other applications.
● Using contractors who use harvested rainwater for window and other cleaning.
● Informing all tenants of the mandatory water-saving measures they must adopt while at work.
● Installing pre-paid water meters for tenants who are high water users, such as car washes, gyms, restaurants and hair salons.
Paul says landlords who are willing to incur extra costs in return for water-wise buildings can implement long-term water-saving measure such as:
● Rain-water harvesting systems.
● Redirecting sump water from underground basements to be used in buildings.
● Installing grey-water solutions so all grey water is re-used.
● Sinking a borehole.
● Amending air-conditioning and HVAC systems to harvest water generated through these technologies.

While these measures will cost landlords, Paul says they will benefit because their buildings will be equipped for the future, and will be in line with global trends towards increased sustainability in the built environment. The measures will also improve the value and desirability of the building as an asset.

Tenants are increasingly looking for “greener” buildings that are not only more environmentally friendly, but also more cost efficient for the tenant, he says.

“The drought will come to an end, but the benefits of employing water-saving measures will have far-reaching beneficial effects for years to come. Spire have been urging our clients to consider implementing as many water-saving measures as possible. Saving water is the right thing to do and we all have to take responsibility where we can in this crisis situation.”

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