Getting ahead of water shortages

Carlos Nobrega is the proud engineer of Chappies complex water-storage and -recycling set-up.

p>Carlos Nobrega, one of the owners of Chapman’s Peak Hotel, is doing everything he can to make sure it never runs out of water.

A poster in the lift lists water-saving tips for guests, and basin taps in the public bathrooms have been shut off, and replaced by hand sanitiser.

But, quite frankly, these measures seem a bit last season in comparison with the other measures he has introduced.

The self-styled logistics manager has always been a keen recycler of resources. In recognition of his efforts, Chappies was recently awarded three stars by Thrive volunteers in its ongoing Project Zero campaign to green Hout Bay restaurants and hotels.

The hotel not only separates and recycles all dry waste and converts some of its vegetable waste into compost for its own vegetable garden, but it has also turned recycling water into a fine art.

Part of the parking garage under the hotel houses a virtual “water farm”. An extensive rainwater harvesting system catches the rainwater from almost all the roofs (of which there are many). A variety of water tanks address the storage need.

In a hotel, the laundry consumes the most water, he says. Toilets are also water-guzzlers, using up to nine litres a flush.

The hotel owner has found a way to address this. The laundry waste water (grey water) is captured and used to flush the toilets and wash the floors.

This grey water system is augmented by the captured rainwater.

There is a future plan to treat the rainwater for use in the laundry, thereby making double use of the same water – firstly to wash in the laundry and secondly to flush toilets.

Carlos says it was easy enough to retrofit the new wing to make use of recycled water; a new pipe to feed the toilets was simply installed in the existing service shafts.

However, supplying the public toilets in the original hotel building proved more challenging: the hot water feed to the basins had to be replaced with cold water from the mains, while mains water to the toilets was replaced with grey water from the laundry.

However, he soon found that he had to design a filter system to remove fabric particles from the laundry water, which threatened to clog pipes.

He also found that the filter needs to be cleaned daily.

Spurred on by his successes, Carlos has even bigger plans: he proposes to renovate the property’s ancient reservoir higher up the mountain.

The original platform remains, he says, and a new reservoir will be constructed using a system, often used to restore water supply to disaster zones, of curved steel panels that are quickly and easily bolted together.

In fact, Carlos regards the City’s water crisis as a disaster anyway.

“We have another dry summer heading our way,” he predicts.

Once the reservoir is in place, it will be filled by pumping excess run-off water up to it.

In an emergency, the swimming pool above the new wing offers another source of standby water. Over this past summer, the level was reduced from shoulder- to waist-depth in order to keep toilets flushing.

Worst-case scenario, says Carlos, the salt-water pool can always be topped up with water from the ocean.

This isn’t as outrageous as it sounds – he points out that over the past year many pool companies have been pumping seawater into mobile tanks to fill new pools.

Whatever happens this summer, Hout Bay residents and visitors can be sure that one of their favourite watering-holes is unlikely to run dry.