Blast from the past bubbles up to boost water savings

An all-but-forgotten attraction from Beacon Island’s heyday has been brought back into service in our effort to cut water costs and become more self-sufficient in the face of drought conditions in the Western Cape, with the results proving that often the smartest solutions are simple ones right in front of you – or, in this case, under your feet.

Once home to an assortment of fish species and a place where adventurous holidaymakers used to go diving, an aquarium on the property lay dry and dormant for nearly 40 years as a huge cavity concreted up under an area of lawn until it recently bubbled back into life when it was converted into a tank for catching and storing masses of rainwater.

The old aquarium has a capacity of 90,000 litres and was instrumental in reducing Beacon Island’s total water consumption in 2018 by 19.45%, or almost one-fifth, compared to 2017.

Speaking on behalf of management team, Ronel Schoeman, Deputy General Manager, said, “We use the rainwater in it for irrigation and outdoor cleaning, which means we don’t have to turn on our sprinkler system. Basically, we only change over to municipal water if the aquarium is empty. It’s made a significant impact on our savings.”

At the time that Beacon Island opened in 1972, the aquarium was fully operational, but in the early 1980s it was emptied out, mothballed, covered in concrete slabbing and grassed over. It remained a solution waiting for a problem, cropping up over the years in discussions only to be passed by again.

“Later, when we started thinking about rainwater harvesting, we got the idea: Why don’t we clean out the aquarium and see what happens? The results have been amazing. Our grass is greener than ever, and we can’t believe how good the gardens are looking.”

The aquarium isn’t the only facet of Beacon Island’s water-saving effort. In the gardens, keeping the grass resplendently green is a priority, but otherwise the focus is increasingly on aloes and other kinds of climate-resilient vegetation that require minimal water. More widely, water meters are located in various parts of the resort and their readings are monitored for spikes in usage to alert management to any leaking pipes or excessive consumption.

Looking ahead, Beacon Island will be installing water-efficient toilets as part of the refurbishment of timeshare apartments being carried out this year. We are also exploring the feasibility of sinking a borehole on the grounds, a vital step to water-security that has been successfully piloted at Cabana Beach and Umhlanga Sands.

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