How one school is saving thousands of rands on their water bill

By admin
01 February 2016

They were once spending up to R50 000 on water every month -- but this KwaZulu-Natal school has managed to reduce their water consumption to less than half of that, using simple mobile app technology.

The savings on both their budget -- and the environment -- have been enormous.

In 2015, the Wyebank Secondary School in Durban embarked on a series of diverse water projects in a bid to save every last drop.

From encouraging the 1 200 pupils to bring a bottle to school instead of drinking from a running tap, to eradicating invasive water-thirsty alien plants from the school grounds. Now, using an app to control water consumption after-hours, the staff and pupils at the school have now become water warriors, simply by changing the way they use water.

Last year the school was chosen to pilot an Electronic Water Management System project, in a bid to lower their exorbitant monthly water bill.

The technology was developed and patented by a local company, Cyclone Technologies, and works by shutting down the school’s water system in the evenings when no one is on the premises.

According to developer Selvan Narainsamy: “When we first assessed the water consumption [through municipal bills], we discovered that the bills were extremely high.

"We saw that the school was losing on average of 30 000 litres of water per night, and couldn’t understand why since there was no one on the premises in the evenings.”

They detected three underground leaks which were then plugged. At that rate of water loss per day, the school would have effectively wasted almost 10 million litres of water a year, had the leak gone undetected.

The company then developed a specialised system for the school which not only automatically shutdown the water systems every evening, but also monitored water consumption and detected any anomalies in the programme -- including possible leaks and illegal connections into the school’s water system.

As a result, Wyebank Secondary have now managed to reduce their monthly water bill by more than half and curbed wastage.

School principal Dr Saths Govender has praised the technology. “We used to spend between R40 000 and R50 000 a month on water. Since installing the water management system we now spend around R20 000 a month on water.

"Not only have we saved around R200 000 a year on our water bill, but we are saving a precious resource.”

The system provides a daily reading of the water consumption, and if there is an increase in consumption or an unexplained spike in the water level, it then flags this and sends a signal to a central computer system.

“We can then detect for a burst pipe or leaks, which allows us to be proactive rather than reactive,” says Selvan.

The system sends test signals, data and updates via a PC to a specially-designed app which the school management have downloaded and continuously monitor. It also has a specific override feature for cases of emergency.

“We needed to cater for instances of fire, for example, as the water is completely shut down at night. So those with access to the app have the function of remotely turning it on again, in case of a fire.”

As a result of the water savings, the school was nominated for the World Water and Food Awards in Malaysia last year – which they won.

“The greatest feature about this app is its real-time connectivity,” says Selvan. “You can see exactly what’s happening to the water levels as it happens, and this in itself is the first step in preventing wastage and saving money.”

The company has now approached other KwaZulu-Natal schools and government departments with their innovative water-saving system.

But the biggest struggle is making the technology cost-effective enough for a major roll-out, something Selvan and his team are currently working on in conjunction with the eThekwini Municipality.

“We believe every new school that is built should have this technology. We estimate we can save one school on average of 90 0000 litres of water a month. Not only is that a huge financial saving for them but it’s important in saving water.”

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