This Cape Town building just went completely off the water grid

Growthpoint Properties says it has taken its first South African commercial property completely off the municipal water grid.

‘The District’ – situated in the heart of Woodstock in Cape Town – is now Growthpoint’s first water net-positive building, and the start of several commercial properties in Cape Town that the developer said it intends to take off-grid.

The multi-tenant office and retail building has seven floors and five basement levels with 18,721sqm of lettable area across 25 businesses. It is used by around 1,750 people daily who together consume around 45,000 litres of water per day.

The move was made possible due to a naturally occurring underground mountain spring flows to the building’s basement.

For years this water has been pumped from the basement sump to prevent flooding. The water was pumped straight into the city’s storm-water system, where it flows into the sea less than a kilometre away.

Before the city’s water crisis, Growthpoint investigated the possibility of using this sump water as grey water for flushing the building’s toilets. However, its evolving design over the years prevented this.

“It is incredibly frustrating to have a sustainable alternative water source that has to be flushed down the drain because it is not safe to drink,” said Timothy Irvine, Growthpoint Properties’ regional asset manager for the Western Cape.

“So, we challenged ourselves to find a way to use the sump to provide drinking water that is completely safe for human consumption for the entire building.”

No easy task

Irvine explained that Growthpoint had to identify and adapt an existing technology never before used for this type of water filtration.

It also had to work with the City of Cape Town to get special legislation drafted and passed to allow it to produce water on a large scale.

“Now, Growthpoint provides all the water for this bustling building from the basement, where its filtration plant can be found in its own sterile glass-fronted room,” he said.

Some 140,000 litres of water flows through the sump each day, and the filtration plant has been designed to clean the entire flow.

The development also has legal ramifications for the wider city, as the the legislation that the City of Cape Town drafted to enable Growthpoint to produce water on a large scale came into effect in November 2017 – when Growthpoint was given the go-ahead to become a Water Services Intermediary.

The legislation means that Growthpoint can only supply water to those with which it has a contractual obligation – its tenants. It does this at exactly the same rate as the municipality.

With this legislation in place however, other commercial property owners are also enabled to do the same.

Read: How much more Joburg and Cape Town residents can expect to pay for water and electricity this month

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This Cape Town building just went completely off the water grid