The Gondwana Collection – a group of 14 lodges around Namibia – has realised the importance of saving water and as far back as 2006 started installing wastewater treatment plants at its accommodation establishments, despite the fact that enough ground water is available to keep the accommodation centres supplied.
The company has already noticed a dramatic escalation in the price of these treatment plants, which have escalated from about N$500 000 in 2006 to current estimates of N$750 000 for one plant. “All our lodges are situated in remote areas. They are not connected to Namwater supply networks. We utilise water from boreholes for our accommodation facilities and try to use it as economically as possible. In order to save on fresh water from the boreholes, we have installed our wastewater treatment plants. The recycled water is used for garden irrigation and is thus “given back” to the environment,” said Inke Stoldt, Gondwana’s public relations officer.
Nevertheless, the lodges use their own water very carefully and say they do everything possible to keep consumption as low as possible. The company installed its first wastewater treatment plant at Namib Desert Lodge in early 2006 and slowly, but surely nearly all other lodges followed suit. Gondwana’s accommodation establishments in Gondwana Canyon Park (Canyon Lodge, Canyon Village and Canyon Roadhouse), Kalahari Anib Lodge, Etosha Safari Lodge & Camp and Damara Mopane Lodge were also fitted with state-of-the-art water treatment facilities.
The three remaining lodges, Namushasha River Lodge, Hakusembe River Lodge and Kalahari Farmhouse already have mechanisms in place whereby the water is treated before it is released into the environment, but the company has confirmed that it wants to install wastewater treatment plants here as well. “More and more tourists are ecology-minded and prefer to book accommodation establishments with a strong conservation philosophy. Due to their demand we have installed signboards at some our lodges explaining our water recycling process. The fact that Gondwana combines its hospitality business with nature conservation and social commitment in a sustainable manner is an important marketing tool,” noted Stoldt.
Gondwana’s waste water is now filtered to such an extent that it can be used for irrigation and since the processed water conforms to specifications, surplus water may be discharged into the environment. Only 20 percent of the wastewater is lost through evaporation and the sewage sludge which remains is dried and disposed of once a year.
“Our local lodge staff is responsible for the day-to-day running and maintenance of the wastewater treatment plants. They have been trained by our technical manager Mr Reini Hoppe, who also installed the plants,” she said.
The water treatment plants consist of several components, including a twin chamber septic tank that separates raw solids from the water. After that process, organic compounds are removed by a trickling filter while dead micro-organisms are disposed of in the settling tank. Finally, the clarified water is disinfected with chlorine.
“The trickling filter is the heart of the plant. Microorganisms settle on the filling material like a biological lawn. As the waste water is sprinkled over the filter it feeds the micro-organisms, which is purification the natural way. The biological lawn forms within a few weeks after the plant is taken into use. Once it is properly established, this bio-filter is easy to maintain. Controls are unnecessary. Only chlorine has to be refilled every month, and the twin chamber system needs to be cleaned about every two years,” explained Stoldt.
Stodlt added that at peak times the plant at Namib Desert Lodge, for example, copes with 25 cubic metres of wastewater per day, which equals the volume generated by about 200 people. The treated water is used for the lodge garden.
“The flora at the lodges largely consists of species that are indigenous to Namibia. This is by no means self-evident, because agriculturally useful and decorative plants were brought from other countries and continents and planted all over Namibia ever since Europeans settled here. Gondwana is determined to restore nature to its original state in all the Gondwana parks as far as possible. Except for the immediate surroundings of the lodge, all plants in the Gondwana parks, which originally did not occur in this area, are gradually removed. Vegetation maps compiled by botanists serve as guidelines. Eventually, the only remaining alien plants will be the lawns and palm trees at the swimming pools and our kitchen gardens, of course, for fresh fruit and vegetables,” noted Stoldt.
“All of this is well worth it. Indigenous plants are water-wise: they have adapted to the aridity and need less moisture. They also provide food and a habitat to native birds. And they lend character to the atmosphere. Therefore they contribute to making our guests’ experience as authentic as possible, right up to their doorstep”, Stoldt explained.