Water infrastructure woes increasing
South Africa’s water infrastructure was under pressure long before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Concerns have been mounting that management and maintenance of an already aged infrastructure might be yet another impact of the pandemic.
It is no secret that South Africa’s failure to improve its water infrastructure will have dire consequences adding significantly to the country’s economic woes. Speak to the experts and they speak of real worry about the ageing water infrastructure across the country that is increasingly being put under more pressure despite it already being unfit for purpose. Covid-19 has seen this pressure increase as attempts to move water to under-addressed areas as quickly as possible. “Without water, we cannot address a health pandemic,” says Achim Wurster, chairman of the Water Institute of Southern Africa. “It is an absolutely essential service and priority without which societies cannot function. Even more so in pandemic situations especially from a public health perspective. Increased challenges Water shortage has been cited as a growing challenge. During the past few years the impact of the severe drought in the Western Cape where a Day Zero – when water runs out completely – became a near reality only highlighted the need for a different approach to water. “Even before Covid-19 what water is available has been a
Pipes, Pumps and Valves Africa - May/Jun 2020
big challenge,” says Henk Smit of Vovani Water. “Although if you have a source you can at least take it from there. The technology and capability to treat water and to distribute it across the country are there. What is a challenge is the cost of doing that. According to the South African Institution Of Civil Engineering (SAICE), budgeting and spending on maintenance, rehabilitation and expansion remain inadequate for water supply in all areas.Damage caused by increased service delivery protests in urban and rural areas has also seen funding being diverted from maintenance and expansion budgets. Consequently, given continually growing demands, communities face an increased risk of supply failures. SAICE has found that water leakage and other contributors to non-revenue water remain unacceptably high. Leakage alone has resulted in losses of up to 40%. Demand management requires concerted attention to be effective, says the organisation, that grades bulk water infrastructure and non-urban water supply facilities at D-grade. It is slightly better in urban areas with a C+ grade. The low grade belies the further deterioration in the ageing bulk water infrastructure portfolio as a result of insufficient
Pipes, Pumps and Valves Africa May/Jun 2020