Growthpoint Properties' headquarters in Sandton. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Growthpoint Properties' headquarters in Sandton. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

Property group Growthpoint has taken one of the mixed-use buildings it owns completely off the municipal water grid.

The District, an office and retail complex in Woodstock, has an underground mountain spring flowing into its basement. This water was previously pumped into the city’s storm-water system to flow into the sea.

Growthpoint has invested in technology to make this water drinkable for the complex’s 1,750 visitors, who use about 45,000 litres of water a day.

"By taking The District and other commercial buildings off the water grid, and substituting municipal water with a safe and sustainable alternative source of drinking water, we are taking pressure off the city’s potable water reserves, adding to the resilience of the city’s water system, and contributing positively to the environment," Growthpoint Properties’ regional asset manager for the Western Cape Timothy Irvine said.

Gowthpoint said it is the first of several Cape Town properties it intends making "water net-positive".

Before the city’s water crisis, Growthpoint had already investigated the possibility of using the water in its basement as grey water for flushing the building’s toilets, but its design, which has changed over the years from four buildings into two, then into one, prevented this better use of the water.

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

For this type of water filtration, Growthpoint had to find and adapt an existing technology that had not been used before. It also had to work with the City of Cape Town to get special legislation drafted and passed to allow it to produce drinking water on a large scale. In addition, it had to get buy-in from the building’s numerous tenants.

Major stakeholders, including the City of Cape Town and tenants of The District, specifically major tenant Ogilvy Cape Town, helped.

The legislation the City of Cape Town drafted to enable the project came into effect in November 2017, when the company was given the go-ahead to become a water services intermediary. It can, however, only supply water to those with which it has a contractual obligation, which are its tenants. It does this at the same rate as the municipality.

Said Irvine, "Net-zero water initiatives are an important part of Growthpoint’s journey as it strives to make all its new developments net-zero by 2030."