For her masters, a young Namibian researcher at the University of Stellenbosch in SA collaborated with two governmental departments, two universities, a radio station and 98 corporate companies in an effort to save water at schools in the province.
The SmartWaterMeterChallenge campaign was born - focusing on using real time water usage data in order to help schools save water and money.
Her thesis, Demanding Change for a constrained environment: Water usage in schools, has to date been implemented in more than 358 schools in the Western Cape Province for saving water and to date with 93 companies pledging.
Cheroline Ripunda (29) graduated last year with a Masters in Electronic Engineering and her focus was (using Information, Communication and Technology for water demand management in schools).
Ripunda says as one of the driest countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Namibia's water problems are compounded by the water extreme fragility of the country's water resources. "As a country, we need to reduce our water usage sooner rather than later," she told Youth Corner.
Her supervisor, Associate Professor Thinus Booysen advised her to take on the project and supported her all the way.
"After realising how the sprinklers were working at the Stellenbosch Primary School where study pilots were conducted, we needed to find out the quantity of water the school was using so a Dropula device was put to monitor this and that's where the shock came in, the school was using way more water than they needed," Ripunda revealed to Youth Corner.
The campaign started with a pilot study at the Stellenbosch Primary School that resulted in massive water savings. After hearing about the amazing results in the media, Shoprite approached her research team for a proposal to extend the project to more schools. "The supermarket ran their pilot study on a primary and a secondary school and the results were fruitful and decided to sponsor R300 000 to 100 schools for them to implement the same idea to save water and that's how it all started," she explained.
She hopes to implement a version of this study in the country, even on a smaller scale. "If different stakeholders similarly joined hands, we too could work towards change water usage behaviour. For this to happen, knowledge is key," she said.
Ripunda said her thesis was successful because corporates got together and created a platform to assist in saving water and strongly feels the same can happen in Namibia. "South African corporate companies came together to help the schools but in the process, they were assisting the economy as well, they were helping the future generation and boosting the education system in a way," said Ripunda.
The researcher mentioned that the first step is to educate people on how depleted the source is, give people easy, practical tips on how to save water and how important the little they do helps. "Most people do not know how much water they waste daily and they don't believe that their efforts can have a big impact on mitigating the water crisis." reminisced Ripunda. She further believes that behaviour change is the long-term reduced water usage.
Ripunda believes that in developing countries like Namibia and South Africa, schools must be empowered with water-saving techniques so that they do not need to wait for government in order to address water wastage problems. "As part of the project, we conducted basic maintenance to the value of R5 000 at 196 schools, this was a once off investment of R1.22 million. In the first month alone, there was a monthly saving of R1.9 million: a saving that schools can put to academic use," stated Ripunda.