The health club group has reported a 61% reduction in municipal water use across its 30 Western Cape clubs

According to the BBC, the drinking water supply of major cities around the world, including London, Miami, Tokyo and Beijing, is under threat. This follows a UN-endorsed report that predicts that the global demand for fresh water will exceed supply by 40 percent in 2030.

The drought in the Western Cape has challenged households and businesses to reduce their consumption in a bid to stave off a Day Zero scenario. While authorities have indicated that Day Zero has been averted for 2018, concerns about responsible and sustainable human consumption of water remains.

Against this backdrop, Virgin Active South Africa will invest a further R20 million in its Western Cape clubs and has committed to rolling out its water resilience efforts to its clubs nationally. Given this estate is made up of 140 clubs nationwide, this is no small undertaking. This decision is driven by the recognition that drastic action needs to be taken to secure the long-term sustainability of this vital resource. And it is no more pertinent than today, World Water Day, which focuses attention on water-related issues.

Ross Faragher-Thomas, MD of the health club group in Southern Africa, explained, “We may be experiencing the effects of a drought in the Western Cape, but the reality is that South Africa is a water-scare country. Our experience in the Western Cape has been a stark reminder how reliant we are on fresh drinking water and that this drinking water supply is going to remain under threat in the long-term unless we fundamentally change how we use water.”

Faragher-Thomas explains that by instituting operational efficiencies and making infrastructural changes, such as greywater systems, has seen their efforts rewarded with a 61% drop in municipal water use since 2016.

The group’s biggest challenge has been ensuring business continuity at its 30 Western Cape clubs in the face of a crisis. Virgin Active’s response has required significant investment, and the group is constantly seeking improvements to efficiencies that will not impact on the member experience or require raising fees.

“Unless we act now to put measures in place to reuse water to reduce our consumption and therefore ensure long-term resilience, the UN prediction that we could face a drinking water shortfall by 2030 will become a reality,” said Faragher-Thomas.

With a commitment to net zero water waste by 2030, Virgin Active South Africa has certainly set a commendable target for itself.


Issued by Corporate Image on behalf of Virgin Active South Africa


What has bee done to achieve a 61% reduction?

  • We have re-configured plumbing in clubs with pools to use the pool water for ablutions, providing up to two months’ supply.
  • In clubs without pools, we have connected our hot water storage tanks with up to 20 thousand litres of water to our ablutions, providing up to a week’s supply.
  • We transport run-off waste water from manufacturing plants to top up our pools. It is filtered and purified through the pool pumps.
  • Installed low flow showerheads and taps across 30 clubs in the Western Cape
  • Procured 40 x rainwater harvesting tanks: It may not be our rainy season in the Western Cape but tthese tanks are used to store water we procure through donations.
  • Plugs in basins to stop members leaving the water running when they shave
  • Instantly hot water ie no need to leave tap running for water to warm up
  • Hand sanitiser at basins
  • Buckets in showers to capture the run-off water to use for flushing toilets
  • Shower timers as a constant reminder to power shower
  • Plumbing the condensate from air conditioners into our pools
  • Conscious consumer messaging campaigns to engage members and encourage them to reduce their consumption
  • Closure of Sensation Showers, steam and sauna facilities which has reduced water consumption by 650 000l a month
  • Disabled the full flush on all dual flush toilets
  • Waterless urinals
  • Completed environmental surveys for 12 potential boreholes.

What’s next?

  • Ongoing search for alternative water sources.
  • Engaging landlords for permission to drill boreholes and install grey water treatment plants.
  • Procuring storage tanks to store up to 20 thousand litres potable water per club.
  • In the event we’re unable to source alternate water legally, we have secured sufficient portable toilets for member use and arranged the delivery of drinking water for staff to ensure our clubs remain open.