Water Efficiency Management
All our water consumption is part of a total recycling system as follows and our water efficiency management formed an important part of being awarded the Gold Leaf by the Wilderness Foundations Green Leaf Standard.
Please see Diagram 1 which was the status of water efficiency management system at the beginning of the year under review; however improvements have been implemented on an ongoing basis.
Our sole source of sanitary water, suitable for drinking, was formerly a manually dug well, which in the past was almost permanently overflowing, feeding the downstream natural wetlands. This well became unusable after the February 2002 floods had shifted our river course and had flooded the well. For sanitary reasons it was necessary to shift the well by about 20 metres to higher ground and replace it by a properly drilled and lined borehole (I) – but still tapping the same aquifer. This aquifer has for the past 40 years not been used by anyone else and easily satisfies the sanitary water needs of the lodge.
For all other purposes, (gardening, swimming pool, fire fighting etc) we have a second very shallow borehole (II) right next to the lodge. This borehole is confined to the uppermost layers of a highly porous coarse sand and gravel bed forming a huge natural underground reservoir as part of a permanent wetland system which even during periods of drought is constantly replenished underground by the river running through the entire valley of the lodge, and, when it rains, by all the run-off water from the entire lodge and from the mountains forming both sides of the valley. During wet seasons the ground water level rises to the top of borehole II.
All our grey water runs into French drains some distance from borehole (II), thus being recycled into the ground water reservoir for borehole (II).
For sewerage disposal we use amply dimensioned and properly constructed multiple-chamber septic tanks which subject the sewage to cleaning by anaerobic fermentation. The thus pre-cleaned water is again run into French drains which, in turn, feed into the aforesaid large underground reservoir, however, at localities so far removed from borehole II that contamination of borehole II (which in any case is not used for drinking), is avoided.
The lodge roofs, except outbuildings, are mostly thatched and would, therefore, be disfigured by gutters. Collection of rainwater is, in any event, unnecessary, because all the run-off from all roofs and from the entire lodge area seeps into the natural underground reservoir of borehole II. If ever the capacity of that natural reservoir becomes overfilled, any excess would run off into the swampy wetland system downstream of the lodge.
We can, therefore, truly say that our water recycling is 100% complete. In spite of this, our staff and guests are encouraged to use water sparingly – but mainly to save on pumping energy.
Note: Once the lodge occupancy rate approaches its maximum, we intend to determine the rate of methane production of our septic tanks with a view to energy recovery and reduction of greenhouse gas emission.
In our situation and considering our low water pressure, no significant savings are achievable by replacing existing taps and shower heads by water-reduction solutions. Our shower heads are mostly hand-held, whereby usage is already minimised. Hot water consumption is no problem, because our hot water heating is entirely renewable. If water usage could be reduced, the ecological benefit would be minimal in our situation, because all grey water and sewage is recycled in any case. The benefit of a reduction in water usage would be offset largely by increased loading of the grey water with contaminants such as soap and dirt.
None the less, we have during the year under review commenced to equip the chalets with outdoor showers fitted with water saving shower heads, the same applies to the showers of the recently constructed prototype tent of the tented camp.
If these shower heads perform satisfactorily, they will be installed in all future expansions and wherever showers are installed, existing shower heads will also be replaced.
Our emphasis is on easy maintenance and reliable operation under low pressure feed conditions and using the available skills levels. A defective flushing system wastes more water in a short time than can be saved over much longer periods using more sophisticated systems.
All toilet water is recycled back to source through septic tanks. We have no municipal connection.