Borehole opens lifeline to water savings and business sustainability

A borehole we sank on our grounds last year is making an increasing contribution to our total water supply, putting Umhlanga Sands on a path to significant cost savings as well as self-sustainability in an era of changing climates and countrywide drought.

“With the high cost of energy in general and water in particular, we thought we had to find another solution,” said Derek McKillop, General Manager, explaining the rationale for the borehole. “When we carried out refurbishments in 2012, we installed extra tanks to increase our water capacity in the event of burst municipal pipes and the like. But the cost of water has remained high. We decided to sink a borehole to see if we could find an alternative source of water, which we did.”

Specialists were recruited and began exploratory drilling in May 2018, striking “a good quantity” of groundwater at a depth of about 100 metres. Test results were promising, and in August the resort’s management board gave approval for a filtration plant to be built at the borehole.

Although Umhlanga Sands has a pre-existing borehole, the difference is that this older one feeds directly into our grey-water system, whereas the water drawn from the new one is purified to exacting compliance standards and augments the municipal supply to the resort. The facility as a whole is subject to ongoing monitoring, maintenance and testing.

As a result of these efforts, the borehole’s yield has been climbing steadily, rising from an initial 24% of total water consumption to 47% and then to the current level of about 52-55%. Derek believes the trend bodes well, saying “the long-term savings on our water account will be significant. In everything we do, whether it’s putting in new air-conditioners and heat pumps or, in this case, a borehole, our aim is to conserve resources and reduce energy costs.”

Umhlanga Sands is also acutely aware of the need to be water-secure in view of the low-rainfall and drought conditions that have prevailed over many parts of South Africa. Of especial concern was the water crisis in Cape Town in 2018 when the city came perilously close to reaching “Day Zero” – the day that municipal taps run dry and everyone has to queue for water.

The hospitality sector in Cape Town faced the prospect of a major disruption in day-to-day business, and Umhlanga Sands has taken a leaf out of its playbook for mitigating the threat. “We learnt a lot from Cape Town it in case we ever get to a similar stage,” Derek said. Opening the new borehole was an important step in this regard towards making the resort more self-reliant and better equipped to see out any potential challenges of water-scarcity that could arise in the future.

It is, however, not the only step that’s been taken. According to Franco Seaman, Deputy General Manager, Umhlanga Sands has a battery of other water-wise measures, including greywater and rainwater tanks, tanks for storing municipal water, and water-efficiencies throughout the resort. The upshot is that “we can run for three days on full occupancy relying on our on-site water supply”.

“It’s all about contingency planning, business continuation and thinking ahead,” Derek explained. “If we had to face a situation like the one Cape Town did, we need to be able to continue to run our business and ensure uninterrupted service as far as possible to our timeshare owners. Doing this and saving costs – the purpose of the new borehole is to help us get there.”

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