17 December 2018 | Story Andre Grobler | Photo Supplied
Drought read more
Water-saving initiatives have been implemented throughout the university’s campuses to withstand the drought.

An attentive visitor to the University of the Free State (UFS) would have noticed that in the past year, certain parts of the Bloemfontein Campus’ gardens have undergone a change. This is part of the UFS’s water-wise and grey-water initiatives that are a response to the ongoing local drought conditions and water restrictions.

Waterless gardens

Senior Director: University Estates, Nico Janse van Rensburg, says the environmental conditions have had a severe impact on the appearance of the gardens. “The era where we had big lawns, has passed.”

Janse van Rensburg says the UFS decided to start the initiative at two highly visible areas, two traffic circles, one at the George du Toit Building and the other the Francois Retief Building.

More landscape changes can be seen in the gardens around the Biotechnology Building, Geography building and Muller Potgieter Building, as well as near the Institute for Groundwater Studies, Engineering Science and the Thakaneng Bridge.

Towards an energy-efficient environment

Paving in these areas is designed to allow for water to soak into the ground. Acting Grounds Services Manager, De Wet Dimo, says more than 100 indigenous trees, which are more adaptive to local environmental conditions, have also been planted. He says a new wood chipper which was recently purchased, will turn dead trees in gardens into wood chips to be used as mulch for new plants.

Dimo says the new look and feel of the gardens was created by using hard elements, paving and indigenous succulents.

New student residences, including those in Qwaqwa and South Campus will use a grey-water system using water which will be collected from showers and basins. The piping at two older residences on the Bloemfontein Campus has also been renovated to a two-way system.

“Rainwater harvesting systems have been fitted at all residences and academic buildings,” said Dimo. The 19 tanks that have been installed have a storage capacity of 265 kilolitres.  Janse van Rensburg says other water-wise initiatives that have been put into action include installing waterless urinals in administrative and academic buildings, water restrainers, pressure control systems (reducing the volume of water) and push-button systems instead of taps.

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