“Water generator” a dynamo at savings and sustainability

A borehole installation at Cabana Beach is delivering such an abundant supply of purified groundwater that even when its output-rate is taken down a few notches to “cruise speed”, it satisfies more than three-quarters of the resort’s water-consumption needs.

Despite initial concerns that a shaft drilled at a property so close to the shoreline would strike water too saline and muddy to be viable for extraction, Cabana Beach’s borehole has proven to be a water windfall of note since it went operational in December 2017, with Barend Olivier, General Manager, saying it “surpassed everybody’s expectations” in its year and a half of active duty.

During this time, the borehole has reduced the resort’s impact on municipal dams, brought down costs on monthly bills, and, looking to the future, helped to ensure sustainable business service to timeshare owners in an era of increasing water-insecurity.

“It can pump up to 9,000 litres an hour,” Barend said, “which we’ve cut down to 7,000 litres an hour in the interests of efficiency and working wisely with this critical long-term resource we have on-site. In the same way, you wouldn’t want to drive your car with the rev counter in the red all the time – you want to cruise at around 3,000 revolutions per minute, not push along at 6,000 the whole way.”

At cruise speed, the borehole and its accompanying purification plant still deliver a top performance: “Eighty-five per cent of the water being used by our guests on the property comes from the borehole, this after going through a thorough and regulatorily compliant filtration process.”

He explained what the process entails: “While it’s more complex than this, the filtration plant works much like the pump of your swimming-pool. The pump circulates the water through a filter, which you have to backwash periodically to remove debris and prevent clogging. At the resort, we do the same thing in principle, with the difference that we don’t waste the backwash onto the grass that happens to be right next to the pool.

“This goes into storage tanks instead, and from there our gardens and parklands are irrigated with the filtered borehole water. Also, we only water these early in the day – so, from four in the morning, the sprinklers pop up and the garden gets irrigated with water we’ve extracted from about a hundred metres down in the ground beneath us.”

The borehole installation is a result of long-range planning Cabana Beach did in 2017 to strengthen its green footprint in the face of low rainfalls in KwaZulu-Natal, declining municipal dam-levels, and the risk of water outages. That reality of that risk was highlighted not long after in 2018 when the taps in Cape Town nearly ran dry and the city’s hospitality sector was urgently looking for ways to be able to keep providing guests with sufficient water for drinking, washing, sanitation, cooking and recreation.

Thanks to its borehole and other water-savings, Cabana Beach is in a strong position to respond to any challenges of this kind that may arise closer to home in the future. Indeed, Barend said, the borehole plays a similar role on the water-affairs front to what the resort’s electricity generator has been playing on the power front during recent spates of load-shedding across the country.

“The borehole is basically our ‘water generator’. As and when load-shedding occurs, we simply switch over to our generator for electricity. But what would you normally do if it’s the water that cuts out? This is where our borehole kicks in and gives us an uninterrupted adequate supply of water – on top of which it’s been driving cost-savings on our municipal account.”

The success Cabana Beach is having with its borehole installation has made this a valuable pilot project for Southern Sun Resorts, Tsogo Sun’s timeshare division, with other properties in the group either having sunk boreholes of their own or busy investigating the feasibility of doing so. These initiatives in turn form part of efforts nationally by Tsogo Sun to contribute, along with others, to developing innovative solutions to water-scarcity and promoting prosperity and well-being in South Africa.

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