South Africa: UCT urine project zips to the top of the pile

- in World News


A UCT civil engineering student’s wee project has landed him a prestigious national award.

Tinashe Chipako has won the 2018 South African Institute of Civil Engineering’s National Investigative Project Showdown for his investigation into the implementation of waterless urinals on the university’s upper campus.

Cape Town is experiencing a crippling drought and his research could potentially save large amounts of water. Chipako found that water used to flush urinals at the university would fill eight Olympic-sized pools annually. He also found that while UCT buys four tons of fertiliser every year‚ it could make seven tons from urine collected on campus.

Students are not turning up their noses at food grown from urine-derived fertiliser – about 79% polled by Chipako said they supported the idea.

“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‚” said Chipako. The engineer‚ who graduated cum laude‚ took part in the university’s urine research initiative — headed by Dr Dyllon Randall — with Craig Flannagan who won an award for his fertiliser-from-urine project last year.

“The students’ assignments demonstrated the benefits of introducing waterless urinals that not only save vast quantities of water but recover valuable‚ sustainable resources from what Randall calls ‘liquid gold’‚” a statement by the university read.

Another student‚ Suzanne Lambert‚ made a bio-brick using urine.

Earlier this month‚ UCT vice chancellor Max Price shared the institution’s plans to save water and prepare for Day Zero.

He said the university had commissioned projects for capturing water from seepage zones which could be used for drinking. It was also conducting a survey to determine sites for boreholes.

In addition‚ each student would be given a bucket to catch grey water.

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