It is common practice to pass by a leaking tap or a spilling sewer in most South African townships and these problems often go unattended for days. In some cases where residents do take the responsibility of reporting these leaks to the municipal officials operating in the area, they are often ignored if the leak is not within a specified job card. This was a concern raised by Community Development Workers working within Ivory Park Township in the City of Ekurhuleni, when they were given tips on saving water at home at a workshop held on Thursday, 17 March 2016.
The workshop was organised by the Water Research Commission (WRC) for the Community Development Workers operating under the banner of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) in the City Of Ekurhuleni, as part of the National Water Week Campaign declared by Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane under the theme, “Water for People, Water by People”.
The WRC will be formally launching the newly-developed handbook entitled, “How to save water – a householder’s handbook”, at a community-based event jointly organised by Johannesburg City Parks, the WRC and the Outlook Foundation, at Diepsloot Gympark on 23 March 2016.
The booklet is meant to educate households on water-saving tips, and is a small user-friendly manual that can be used by people with less technical know-how to solve water problems. While discussing the contents of the booklet the Community Development Workers shared many water leak stories from their neighbourhoods, and that most leaks often go unfixed for days. According to the WRC handbook, repairing leaks can result in water savings of up to 40%.
“It has become common practice to see unregistered car washes wasting water anyhow in our neighbourhood, we do understand that this is illegal but sometimes reporting these cases does not help as nothing is done to stop this bad practice," said one concerned Community Development Worker during the workshop.
Dumisani Gubuza, Executive Manager for Water Demand Management Water and Sanitation within Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality said, “Municipal policies and bylaws do not allow leaks to be repaired by municipal personnel on private properties. The consumer is fully responsible for any leaks that occur within the household property boundaries, and it remains his or her responsibility to pay for water consumed over and above the free basic water allocation, whether the water was consumed legitimately or as a result of leakages."
Households have a big role to play in saving water as the country faces a severe drought which is likely to extend for a very long period. A dripping tap, for example, wastes about 60 litres a day which makes up 1800 litres per month. On the other hand, a leaking toilet wastes up to 100 000 litres of water a year. The WRC booklet guides households step-by-step on how to replace worn-out washers and float-valve washers for toilet cisterns.
Gubuza said, “The City of Ekurhuleni has been active in a leak repair programme which identified 473 indigent households and has carried out onsite repairs since 2008. The project identifies indigent households with high volumes of water consumption and helps them minimise water losses to ensure that they only consume the amount of water they need and can afford to pay for, and that the benefits of free basic water are realised.”
Gubuza further noted, “The City of Ekurhuleni’s leak repair project identifies all water fixtures within indigent properties and fixes those that are damaged, or have reached the end of their service life. These include repairing leaks within the connection pipe from the meter, leaking taps, leaking meters, leaking toilets and leaking geysers; replacing non-functional meters, and non-water-saving toilet cisterns with water-saving cisterns; and ensuring all meters were readable and active on the billing system. All repairs and replacements were done free of charge and this was a once-off benefit. Once the repairs and replacements were complete, completed job cards were submitted to the consultants.”
According to the WRC, water-loss problems can be solved at home by changing small water-use habits such as taking a short quick shower instead of a deep water-filled bath, reducing shower time to 5 minutes, and replacing shower heads with water-efficient ones. Letting water run while brushing teeth is the most common water loss practice we are all guilty of and wastes many litres of water.
“When buying household items such as washing machines, dishwashers and shower heads, questions on their water efficiency need to be raised to the suppliers so that households don’t find themselves paying huge water bills to municipalities every month. A householder has a right to know how much water, for example, a toilet cistern uses per flush before even paying for a wasteful toilet system,” said Jay Bhagwan, WRC Executive Manager responsible for water-loss studies.
Software developed for helping municipalities to identify and reduce water leaks is freely available at the WRC. Programs such as ECONOLEAK and BENCHLEAK have assisted municipalities in dealing with massive water leaks.
Households can start paying attention to smaller details, for example, when water levels start decreasing in a swimming pool; it is a sign of a leak that needs immediate action.
For more on water leak repair and water loss studies visit www.wrc.org.za