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Time to fix infrastructure leaks

Online since 5.11.2015 • Filed under Advertorial • From Issue 16 page(s) 191
Time to fix infrastructure leaks

Worldwide, countries are facing periods of intense drought. Areas such as California are in the midst of the worst drought the state has seen in its 164-year history, with 38-million residents under strict water conservation rules to reduce urban consumption by 25% compared to 2013.

Closer to home, water restrictions were recently imposed on several areas in KZN following insufficient rainfall. According to a GOVERNMENT GAZETTE notice published recently, Water and Sanitation Department director-general, Margaret-Ann Diedricks, announced that water use for irrigation from the Goedertrouw Dam would be cut by 70%, with domestic use cut 30%, and industrial use by 10%. The goal is to safeguard the area’s remaining potable urban water supplies in preparation for a possible extended drought.

Fix the leaks

Pipelines lie at the heart of South Africa’s infrastructure and should be replaced before they fail. Water distribution, waste disposal, irrigation and telecommunications all rely on functional pipelines,’ says Jan Venter, chairman of Southern African Plastic Pipe Manufacturer’s Association (SAPPMA), which promotes a long term solution by saving water with plastic pipes. Although small, the local industry is important and is also one of the most demanding of performance. Plastic pipes and fittings are required to last over 100 years, as opposed to older materials that have a lifetime below 50 years. ‘It is our responsibility to push for the country’s water infrastructure to be upgraded and also to educate users about the benefits of replacing with plastic pipes,’ Venter points out. Much of SA’s pipelines were installed in the early 1950s and 1960s and based on cement, asbestos or steel. Although the exact makeup of the buried water systems in this country is not known, cast iron pipes were used from 1870 to 1930, cement-lined cast iron from 1930 to 1970, asbestos cement from 1950 to 1970, ductile iron pipes from 1960, and PVC from 1970 onwards. ‘With water leaks springing up everywhere and disrupted water supplies, local municipalities should spend the money allocated in their budgets to upgrade and replace these and we would be able to save enough purified water to significantly reduce the impact and long-term effects of the below average rainfall,’ Venter maintains. Local plastic pipe manufacturers and installers are hoping that the concerns about water scarcity and the threats of water restrictions will result in these old pipelines being replaced by plastic pipes made from PVC or high-density polyethylene (HDPE).

Doubling the lifetime

The benefits of using plastic pipes are well documented. Apart from having a lifetime that is more than double, plastic pipes are also quicker and easier to install, have lower failure rates, less corrosion, fewer joint leaks and are lower in price. The Water Research Commission completed a survey of 132 municipalities in South Africa a few months ago. Their findings revealed that water lost through leakage, incorrect metering and unauthorised consumption averaged around 37% of our country’s available water supply. This amounts to a financial loss of around R7.2 billion per year. Australia, another water-scarce country, loses less than 10%. South Africa simply cannot afford to continue losing so much treated water.


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Issue 16

Issue 16

November 2015

This article was featured on page 191 of
To Build Magazine Issue 16.

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