Cape Town – The Western Cape’s water woes have proved to be an unexpected opportunity for University of Cape Town (UCT) Civil Engineering graduate Tinashe Chipako to show off his research project on waterless urinals.
Chipako won the 2018 South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) National Investigative Project Showdown for South African universities for his project which investigated the “feasibility of implementing waterless urinals on UCT’s upper campus”.
The competition is described as a showcase of the country’s best emerging engineers, with the winners reflecting a “new breed of engineer”: technically adept and proficient in written and verbal communication. Entries were received from civil engineering students at top universities across South Africa.
“Unsurprisingly, it was quite surreal to have conversations with highly regarded personalities in the South African civil engineering community, and I’m truly grateful to have been awarded the opportunity. I’d like to thank the entire Department of Civil Engineering at UCT for the unparalleled support I’ve been given throughout my studies,” said Chipako
Cum laude graduate Chipako was among a quartet of final-year students working on urine research projects as part of Dr Dyllon Randall’s newly established urine research field in the Department of Civil Engineering. Another one of these, Craig Flannagan’s fertiliser-from-urine project, won the Greenovate Award in 2017.
The assignments demonstrated the benefits of waterless urinals, not to only save vast quantities of water but to recover valuable, sustainable resources from what Randall refers to as ‘liquid gold’.
“Being exposed to events such as the SAICE National IP Showdown, and further having the honour to represent UCT, was an amazing experience. Having the community take interest in your research is always a plus as well!,” added Chipako.
The five key findings from Chipako’s research were that:
* UCT uses enough water to fill about eight Olympic-size swimming pools to flush urinals each year.
* UCT purchases four tons of fertiliser each year, but seven tons of fertiliser could be made from urine collected on campus.
* 79% of the 500 survey respondents said they would support food grown using urine-derived fertiliser.
* 96% of the respondents said they would support waterless urinals because they conserve water.
* the cheapest option for saving water in urinals would be to simply reduce the number of flushes. (This has already been achieved by placing signage in several bathrooms asking users to not flush).