Thursday, April 25, 2024

Another green innovation

They call it a paradox. And the more you think about it, it does seem ÔÇô well ÔÇô paradoxical. How else do you explain that some of the biggest buyers of treated sewage water for gardening are guilty of letting huge amounts of grey water go to waste every day?

At Bountifull Hydro Solutions, they argue that though Botswana has done reasonably well in water reticulation and connection, very little was done to educate consumers about water conservation and reuse. It was only after the water situation got really bad, that regulations were introduced to restrict use of potable water “to say, ‘don’t water your garden, don’t wash your car with clean water; if we see you doing this we will charge you’,” says Piwane Dodo, co-founder and director of Bountifull Hydro Solutions.

Dodo and his business partner Naomi Thebe spotted a business opportunity in the midst of this crisis, and introduced an innovative grey water recycling system. The system harvests grey water from bathrooms, hand basins, and laundry machine, and diverts it away from the septic tank into a settlement tank, where the water undergoes filtration. Thereafter, it is pumped into a storage tank to be used for garden irrigation or redirected back into the house for toilet flushing and thereby eliminate the use of potable water in the toilet.

The partners state that the system can reduce an average household’s water bill by up to 50% because it optimizes water use, instead of just using it once.

“The water you use to bath goes back to your gardens, and when it goes back to the garden we do what is called sub-surface irrigation,” explains Dodo. “We excavate your garden area and line rows of pipes underneath and your garden receives water directly to the root systems of the plants. There is no evaporation, and you don’t need to move around your garden and do watering. There is also no odours, so there is no need to treat the water extensively if you are discharging it for your lawn.”

He explains that since they started doing installations this year, the uptake has been “lovely”.
Thebe adds that most of their clients are private homes, and lodges.

“The gardens we have attended to are responding very well,” says Dodo. “They have all come back to life and are very green. This shows us that this is a system that going into the future every household must have.”

Currently, most of their clients are in Gaborone, with plans to roll out the system countrywide when the company has built adequate capacity to handle the demand.

Thebe points out that while it is only now that people in Botswana are getting accustomed to water conservation and recycling, this has been a way of life for generations in the developed world.
“With this system,” she says, “Botswana can be green.”

Dodo states that in institutional housing or in areas where neighbours are willing to work together, a single system can harvest grey water from several houses, and through a submersible pump automatically water the various gardens in each household.

The two business partners point out that though this is their first joint venture, they have, as individuals, tried other businesses over the years. As for Thebe, she even has a corporate background. An accountant, she has worked as finance manager at various organisations. She insists that she’d rather be here, than be in an 8-to-5 job.

“I believe in what we are doing here,” she says, “because I support the global initiative to go green.”
Dodo explains that coming from different backgrounds, they complement each other very well.
“She’s got that background in finance and getting things organized, and I have a background in working on site,” he says.

He explains that while it is acceptable that there will always be differences in opinion, they agreed from the beginning on the need to compromise, and that there should never be any personal emotions involved when decisions must be taken.

“You become very objective,” he says. “You put away your personal ambitions, and say ‘if this is for the good of the business, so be it’.”

Thebe adds that the three magic words to a successful business partnership are “communicate, communicate, communicate”.

“We need to be communicating all the time,” she says. “That goes for our staff as well. That is the only way we can know what is going on.”

Dodo has a warning: “Due to global warming, our summers are going to get hotter and longer, and there will be less rainfall over the years. So even if our dams fill up again, we still need to ensure that there is proper use of water for future generations.”


Read this week's paper