Net-Positive Water Systems for Schools in Drought-Stricken Areas

Schools in drought-stricken areas are vulnerable to water shortages and may have to close because of health risks.  Closing schools significantly affects the quality of education as teaching is disrupted and learning time is lost.

The ‘Net-Positive Water Systems for Schools in Drought-Stricken Areas’ study explores how this vulnerability can be addressed through rainwater harvesting. Case studies and modelling of schools in water-scarce areas were undertaken and results analysed.

The findings suggest that in some drought-stricken areas rainwater harvesting systems have the potential to generate sufficient water to exceed the water needs of the school and enable it to be water net-positive, and share water with neighbours. The study indicates that the business case for rainwater harvesting appears weak where there is a reliable local municipal water supply. However, this changes when schools are faced with punitive drought tariffs and increasing water outages which force closures.

The study suggests a rainwater harvesting system can be developed for about R1,500 per learner. This system would allow the school to be fully off-grid for water, achieve significant operational savings and enable the school to avoid closure during water shortages.

The study has been presented at CIB International Conference on the Smart Built Environment and forms the basis for further work and a calculator for schools in different climate regions of South Africa.