Two Weybridge Park neighbours are doing extraordinary things with water harvesting and saving – showing how ordinary households can meet the challenge of the worsening water crisis.
Situated across the road from each other in Woodlands Avenue, Johan Ferreira harvests rainfall running down his road, and Roy Larkin pipes roofgutter-harvested rainwater into his house where it is used for everything from washing to drinking.
The system is so successful that he is now “off the grid” as far as reliance on municipal water is concerned.
Interestingly they both grew up on farms and the “boer maak ’n plan” (farmer makes a plan) ethos had more than a little to do with their inventions, they admit.
Ferreira, who is a plant manager, came up with his idea one day about five years ago during a storm.
“I looked at this water running down the road past my gate and thought, ‘what a waste’. My project started from that point,” he recalled yesterday.
He started by cutting a neat little channel into the pavement and then from the channel he ran a pipe – covered up now beneath the verge lawn – to a simple swimming pool pump next to his gate motor, which gave him a power point.
From there the water would be pumped up to a 5000l water tank in the top-most corner of his garden.
The first rainshower after that demonstrated just how effective the system was going to be, he said.
“The rain didn’t last long but with the help of a loose brick to angle the water into the channel we managed to fill up the tank.”
From the tank, Ferreira now gravity-feeds water to various parts of his garden and also round to the back of his house where it is pumped into another tank.
This second reservoir is used to water the back garden but also works in tandem with his roofgutter harvesting system to fill his pool.
“ Swimming pools can place a major demand on a household’s water budget but “ever since I put in this system I have not had to use municipal water to fill the pool”, Ferreira said.
Larkin has geared his system around roofgutter harvesting but has added first flush and leaf deflector filters to get rid of leaf litter and bird droppings.
The water fills up a downpipe and overflows into two tanks, leaving any remaining solids behind.
Larkin took a reading with his hand metre yesterday which showed his tank water had just 38TDS (total dissolved solids) substantially lower than municipal tap water at 159TDS.
This tank water is piped round the house and then divided to go either straight through to fill a swimming pool or, with the turn of a tap, to pass through a three-stage filter system – and then into the house.
With the turn of another tap Larkin can block off this inflow and get back onto municipal mains but there’s seldom a need, he said.
“The only other thing to remember is a capful of Jik or chlorine now and then for the tank to kill any bacteria,” he said.
“We’re now off the grid as far as water is concerned. We do everything with this tank water including washing with it and drinking it.”
Larkin has also rejigged his bathroom geyser so it’s set at a permanent 43° ensuring not only cost-saving as less energy is lost through the insulation but also water saving as the person showering no longer has to jiggle the hot and cold taps trying to get the temperature right.
“Why heat your hot water to 80°-plus like most geysers are set and then use cold water to cool it down again? It’s inefficient. This way it’s one tap, the water’s at optimum temperature immediately and you flick the tap on and off between wetting, soaping and rinsing yourself off,” he said.
Meanwhile, the metro has applauded the Woodlands Avenue water innovations.
On Ferreira’s street rainwater run-off harvesting system, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality mayoral committee member for infrastructure Annette Lovemore said it clearly complied with water restrictions, supported the metro’s water conservation by-law and reduced the consumer’s costs.
“So it’s a good idea… with many sustainability benefits for society as a whole.”
Rainfall run-off in urban areas often runs into rivers and, related to this, South African environmental legislation stipulates an “ecological flow” or minimum level required to sustain the natural functioning of the river and the survival of riverine plants and animals.
Asked if street rainfall harvesting might cause problems in rivers in this regard, Lovemore said she did not believe it would.
“Time will be the real judge but with many densely populated areas and thereby the increase of impermeable surfaces, sufficient water still should be available to sustain ecosystems,” she said.
She said Larkin’s innovation was likewise a good idea although the condition of gutters and accumulation of bird droppings would need to be monitored.
“The ideas will not harm our operations or any other citizens. They really are to be applauded and encouraged.”