UCT student wins top award for waterless urinals project

Tinashe UCT win

The City of Cape Town is experiencing the worst drought ever recorded. Tinashe Chipako, a civil engineering student at the University of Cape Town (UCT), has won a prestigious award for a project on waterless urinals.

Chipako won the 2018 South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) National Investigative Project Showdown for South African universities. His project investigated the feasibility of implementing waterless urinals on UCT’s upper campus.

The competition attracted entries from South Africa’s top universities and is described as a showcase of the country’s best emerging engineers, with the winners reflecting a “new breed of engineer”.

“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,” says Chipako.

Chipako was part of Dr Dyllon Randall’s newly established urine research field in the Department of Civil Engineering. He was among a quartet of final-year students working on urine research projects.

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”.

The waterless urinals project had five key findings:
• The UCT uses enough water to fill about eight Olympic-size swimming pools to flush urinals each year.
• The UCT purchases four tonnes of fertiliser each year, but seven tonnes of fertiliser could be made from urine collected on campus.
• Some 79 percent of the 500 survey respondents said they would support food grown using urine-derived fertiliser.
• Ninety-six percent 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.)

“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,” Chipako adds.

Chipako, who graduated cum laude, scored the highest course mark for his research work – 92 percent last year.

To view the “Recycled urine is liquid gold” video click: here.

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