Sau Bay Resort & Spa is located in a remote bay on Vanua Levu, which, while making our resort an extremely special and tranquil place to visit, presents many logistical challenges when it comes to energy conservation and water consumption. Prior to this year, the resort was heavily reliant on fossil fuels, utilizing principally diesel to supply water and electricity for the property.
Commitment to Sustainability
After acquiring the resort, the new owners decided to implement a 3-part sustainability program, which include the following components: 1) conversion of the desalination system for water production to a natural water source; 2) installation of solar arrays to off-set electrical energy produced by generators; and 3) development of, and participation in, regional sustainability programs such as coral reef preservation and enhancement projects and climate adaptation initiatives. Converting the resort to a sustainable operation is necessary both from and ideological standpoint as well from a fiscal standpoint. By embracing the triple bottom line concept in running a sustainable resort - namely by implementing financial, environmental and social programs, Sau Bay Resort is committed to the long-term stewardship of our natural environment.
An Alternative to Desalination at Sau Bay
When the new owners took over the resort in late May 2022, fresh water was made principally by desalination of ocean water, a very energy intensive process. The process involves reverse osmosis membranes, which utilizes approximately 60 liters of diesel fuel per day for the generator to power the desalination unit. In addition, the expensive membranes require periodic replacement, with the old membranes being disposed as household waste. A low quality well supplemented this water source during the wet season, but the hardness of the water made it unsuitable for certain applications, such as laundry. The new owners sought an alternative, reliable and sustainable means of bringing fresh water to the resort and the idea of searching for a freshwater source in the vicinity of Sau Bay Resort & Spa was explored. Hence, the Sau Bay Water Project was started, with the following objectives: 1) Eliminate our dependence on the desalination system 2) Reduce our carbon footprint, 3) Tap a Source of better water, and 4) Provide fresh running water to our local neighbor.
Phase I: Planning
The first phase of the project involved finding a water source and devising a plan to bring the water to the resort. Although no perennial fresh water source was identified within our 100 acres of pristine rainforest, a source of water was ultimately identified in collaboration with our native Fijian neighbor, who owns much of the land around Sau Bay. A natural freshwater seep was identified that historically produces water – even during the dry season. The challenge was that this water source is located over 1,700 meters from the resort in a valley within the dense rainforest surrounding the resort. A water rights agreement was negotiated with the property owner in exchange for providing fresh, running water to one of the residences located on his property, which is home to one of our own divemasters and his family of five. Previously, this family had to hand pump water from a single well. The concept of reducing our carbon footprint while providing a family in need fresh running water, was an amazing opportunity that Sau Bay Resort & Spa was “all in” on. The first component of our three part sustainability program would be realized!
The ”Water Project” was formally initiated with the signing of the water rights agreement in late July. In addition, the blessing from the Regional Chief was obtained. By the end of July, an engineering design had been developed and materials procured to get started with this ambitious project.
Phase II: Construction of Dam
The second phase of the water project involved the construction of a dam at the water source, which commenced on August 1, 2022. Being located 1700 meters from the resort up a river channel, made it logistically challenging to deliver concrete, sand and rebar to the construction site. All materials had to be hand carried. Upon completion of the dam, a mesh cover was installed to prevent leaves and debris from falling into the dam.
Phase III: Installation of the Water Line
The completion of the dam allowed for the third phase of the project to commence - Installation of the water line to the resort. This involved procuring approximately 2,000 meters of polyethylene piping of various diameter sizes, transporting the pipe by boat to the resort and then clearing the path for the pipe through dense rainforest, and finally laying out the pipe along the cleared path. The pipe was then connected to the dam outlet allowing for pressure testing and adjustments to be made in order to ensure sufficient pressure was available at the resort.
Phase IV: Water Tanks
The fourth phase of the project involved installation of a series of water tanks. A tank was installed along the line to provide additional pressure to bring the water to the resort with ample pressure. Finally, the water tanks, which previously were used to store seawater for desalination, were repurposed for water storage at the resort. By August 18, 2022, fresh water from our new water source was filling tanks at the resort. The resort now holds over 30,000 liters of water at any given point, providing redundancy for periods of low rainfall. Ultimately, we had so much fresh water at the resort that the tanks were overfilling and we had to create a water diversion valve/line.
Phase V: Installation of Filtration System
The fifth phase of the water project was installation of the filtration system to ensure the safe drinking water at the resort. The system selected comprises a 3-component system including a sediment trap, activated carbon filter and ultraviolet (UV) light. The Luminor Blackcom 5.1 LBH5-Z22 system is capable of delivering 15 gallons per minute, which was determined by measurement to be sufficient for the resort demand.
Phase VI: Bringing Fresh Water to our Neighbors
The final state of the project involved delivering water to our neighbor’s property. Since the water water line by-passed their property, this was a relatively simple and inexpensive addition, which brought a tremendous amount of happiness to our neighbors since they would no longer need to hand pump water from their well and provided better quality water.
The water project was substantially completed on October 2, 2022, two months after construction began. We employed seven construction workers to help with the construction project. This water project was lead by our chief of maintenance, Jone. He worked with the team to overcome many logistical and engineering challenges resulting from the difficult terrain and the distance involved in bringing water to the resort from so far away. Challenges included material delivery to the construction site of the dam, pressurization of the water line, installation of water tanks with secure concrete foundations, and construction of multiple pipe connections in such a way that they are not damaged by livestock.
Within 90 days from “conception to completion”, Sau Bay Resort & Spa eliminated its dependence on fossil fuels for production of its fresh water. At the same time, we were able to make a life better for our neighbors by providing them with running water. This was truly a “win-win” for both the resort and our immediate community and demonstrates Sau Bay Resort & Spa’s commitment to the environment. With the water project complete, we are now able to focus our efforts our next sustainability project: Design and Installation of our Solar Arrays, which are planned for 2023.