An article was written on the impact that the Dropula and BridgIoT’s service has had during the water crisis in the Western Cape.

You will certainly be aware that public awareness of, and concern for the drought and the looming threat of Day Zero, have heightened significantly over the last few weeks. Schools play an important role in water saving, firstly because they are large consumers of water, but also because of the impact we can make through affecting children’s behaviour at the school and home through awareness.

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The #SmartWaterMeterChallenge that aims to save water at schools using the Dropula smart water meter, started in the second week of November last year, with the initial target of 100 schools sponsored by Shoprite’s visionary Act For Change team, led by Wendy van Rensburg. Two-thirds of the funds allocated to each school was ring-fenced purely to provide often neglected plumbing maintenance, which immediately leads to significant savings. The rest was for the Dropula, notification services, and the costs associated with the awareness campaign.

We hit the ground running, realising the enormity, criticality, and responsibility of the task ahead. Our aim was to get 50 schools online before the December break, to ensure that we can make the most of the potential savings during the December holidays.  By the time the schools had closed, we managed to get 60 schools online – thanks to our remarkable and rapidly growing BridgIoT team and contractors.

While we were going flat-out on the first 100 schools, we were astonished to see how additional corporate sponsors were getting on board and giving generously through the #SmartWaterMeterChallenge campaign, spearheaded by Kieno and his conscientious team at CapeTalk.

Through our interaction with CapeTalk, Shoprite, and the University of Cape Town, we reached out to the Department of the Western Cape Premier, who pledged to support five schools, and subsequently put us in contact with the Western Cape Education Department, who committed to part-funding a further 170 schools if we could get the necessary corporate funders to contribute. Thankfully, Capetonians are collaborative problem solvers, and another 92 corporates got involved, allowing the campaign to reach 358 schools. We would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to them for making the magic happen, helping us to improve the facilities at the schools, and allowing us to reach thousands of school children and teachers through the #SmartWaterMeterChallenge campaign.

The work does not stop with the installations though. After installing Dropula at a school, we get a first consumption baseline for a few days. After that, two stages of plumbing maintenance are performed through our maintenance partner, Pragma. Executing the plumbing maintenance was initially slightly more laborious than we anticipated, but after getting the hang of it and ironing out some logistic issues, we are well underway with this stage too. We expect the plumbing maintenance stage to achieve at least half of the short-term savings at each school. We have seen, for example, savings of 16 kL/day at one school in Mitchells Plain and 31 kL/day at one school in Khayelitsha due only to maintenance and closing the main valve overnight.

After the maintenance phases at a school have been completed, we will take a second consumption baseline, after which we will commence with the behavioural stage of the intervention with Prof Martine Visser and her team at UCT, and the research team at Stellenbosch University. During this stage, we will target the principals, teachers and children to make them aware of the school’s consumption, and try to improve their consumption patterns through targeted messaging.

Meanwhile, when a school is online, regardless of whether it has gone through maintenance yet, we monitor their consumption daily and notify them if we notice unexpected flow patterns or obvious anomalies. Through doing this, we are catching burst or leaks that have sprung since the Dropula was installed.

Thanks to all of you, on the 1st of February 2018, we have saved 17 million litres of water. We should be able to reach daily savings exceeding 500,000 litres soon, hopefully before we send out the next progress report. You can follow our progress at schools.bridgiot.co.za.

Thank you once again for your fantastic support. It is not often that a start-up, academia (UCT and Stellenbosch), CSIs, established corporates, schools, and government agencies work together to directly benefit society, and we feel especially privileged to be part of it.

Kind regards
Thinus, on behalf of the BridgIoT team.