the river runs through the good business

In the Cape we are lucky to have had some rain – finally. Hopefully our dams are rising a little and the water table is being replenished for the summer crops to drink from. So we are chuffed to bring you today the next story in the Woolworths Good Business Journey, where they tap into an underground water supply to meet some of their daily water needs.

Woolworths installed a water treatment system that uses water under their Cape Town Head Office building to flush toilets, run the building’s car wash, the fountain outside the building and the cooling towers for the air conditioning units.

This will save the Cape Town municipality an estimated 27 375 000 litres of water a year or no less than 75 000 litres of municipal water a day! In addition, the retailer’s water bill will be reduced.

tapping underground resources

The underground water runs about 20 metres under Woolworths Head Office building in the centre of Cape Town. This water flows into the City of Cape Town’s storm water system, and is eventually discharged into the sea. After much enquiry, the source of the underground stream is still somewhat of a mystery.

Alex Kuzma, Head of Engineering Services at Woolworths says, “We started investigating this project three years ago. After consulting with the City of Cape Town, and a range of experts, we realised we could harvest the underground water, treat it and use it instead of municipal water. Everyone wins: Woolworths, the City of Cape Town, residents, and importantly, the environment. This is part of our Good business journey which helps to conserve natural resources and conduct business as responsibly as we can. The conservation and management of water is a major focus area of our Good business journey programme, as it should be in a country where water is a scarce resource.”

The treated water is completely safe for use, even though it will not be used as drinking water. To do this they invested in a treatment plant that purifies the water using a number of steps, including reverse osmosis.

cleaning water through reverse osmosis

Reverse osmosis is where pressure pushes the underground water through a semi permeable membrane. The membrane (which is about as thick as cellophane tape) allows only the water to pass through, eliminating impurities or contaminates.

Drinking water will continue to be channelled separately into the building for the 2 000 people who occupy it daily. Once the treated water has been used, it will exit the building into the municipal waste water system.

Woolworths water conservation targets include:

  • Reducing their relative water consumption by 30% by 2012;
  • Working with suppliers to reduce water use and improve waste water management; and
  • Researching and understanding the water footprint of selected priority products.

What is the Woolworths Good business journey?

It is a comprehensive long term plan centred on four key priorities:

  1. accelerating transformation,
  2. driving social development,
  3. enhancing Woolworths’ environmental focus and
  4. addressing climate change.

Please visit for more information.

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