Water and sanitation are essential for human existence and economic development. There are, however, major challenges (domestically, regionally and globally) in relation to water and sanitation. There are also historical inequalities. Challenges include water security; water access; increased health and environmental regulation; aging infrastructure; and financial sustainability. Systemic responses include demand management; transitions towards more smart and sustainable technologies; sector restructuration; and tariff (as well as wider financing) reforms. Emerging solutions encompass infrastructural, technological and managerial responses.
The global water and sanitation market was estimated to be US$862 billion in 2016. This includes both capital and operational expenditure, the latter accounting for 64%. The market is expected to reach close to US$900 billion by 2022, growing by +3.7% a year over the 2015-2022 period. South Africa, ranked 16th, accounted for 1.3% of the global market. In South Africa, government has committed R115 billion until 2024 to water and sanitation infrastructure. Projects have been designed to “crowd in” private sector investment and private sector initiatives are independently investing in transitioning risk management of their asset base toward smarter and more sustainable solutions. Yet these significant investments (and those projected to follow) fall short of the projected needs. Improving efficiencies is therefore a key focus of many efforts.
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There has been a concerning increase in the use of inferior thermostatic mixing valves in solar-heating systems. These products are also being installed in the hot water systems and on specific plumbing fixtures in old-age homes, clinics, hospitals and schools.
Quality thermostatic mixing valves protect people from scalding. They achieve this by ensuring a safe water temperature in the bath, shower, basin, bidet and kitchen sink. This is by accurately blending hot and cold water to keep temperature consistent even when the incoming water pressure or flow fluctuates.
Water from solar-water heating systems can reach temperatures that significantly exceed 65°C when they over perform. The ideal temperature of water at the point varies depending on the application but should never exceed 50°C. In baths, basins and showers, the standard water temperature of hot water is at least 38°C. To melt fats in the kitchen sink, hot water must be at least 45°C.
Brendan Reynolds, Executive Director of the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA), says that the use of these inferior thermostatic mixing valves places many lives at risk, especially the most vulnerable.
“Hot water from a solar water heater can reach temperatures of up to 90°C. A serious burn can occur within three seconds of being exposed to water that is 60°C in temperature. Hot water at 48°C can lead to a serious burn within 10 minutes. Many incapacitated people and children who cannot reach the tap quick enough or do not know how or are unable to close it have been burnt very severely in water of these temperatures. Bear in mind that children and the elderly also have thinner skin that burns quickly,” Reynolds says.
A quality thermostatic valve is manufactured to comply with the SABS 198:2012 standard. The standard enables plumbers and consumers to ascertain that the thermostatic mixing valve will perform as expected.
Reputable South African manufacturers and suppliers of this technology are very familiar with the standard. They also have an intricate understanding of the unique local conditions in which their products operate.
Many of the inferior thermostatic mixing valves that are being used in South Africa are being mass manufactured for an international market by companies in the East. These manufacturers are, therefore, not always aware of the strict standards that govern plumbing installations in the various markets that they supply.
A thermostatic valve that has been manufactured according to the SABS standard will allow the correct quantity of water through the hot water system. Importantly, it also reacts
swiftly in the event of a cold-water supply failure. When this occurs, it automatically shuts down and allows only a small amount of water through the pipe.
The influx of inferior mixing valves in the country over the years has been on the the back of a significant increase in demand for solar-water heating systems. These systems reduce water and energy bills, while also mitigating exposure to an extremely strained electricity system. Certainly, a growing awareness of the importance of sustainable living is also driving the uptake of the technology among large property developers and owners, as well as middle- and upper-income homeowners.
There has also been an alarming increase in the use of inferior thermostatic mixing valves in solar heating systems for large affordable housing developments. Inferior plumbing products, such as thermostatic mixing valves, are sold at a fraction of the cost of quality systems that comply with the relevant standards. They are especially appealing during challenging economic conditions as a short-sighted cost-cutting exercise. This has also been at the expense of local industry which supplies thermostatic valves that comply with strict standards.
Notably, the authorities have established localisation targets for solar water heater installations on many of these affordable housing projects. This is to stimulate the South African manufacturing industry so that it is also able to create more jobs. Yet, there are no such requirements for important plumbing components such as thermostatic mixing valves that are assembled or manufactured in the country according to the relevant quality standards.
For example, Advanced Valves, one of IOPSA’s members, manufactures a high-quality thermostatic mixing valve at its state-of-the-art factory in Johannesburg. The product’s very high local content compliments localisation targets that have been stipulated for other components of solar-water heating systems for affordable housing projects. The only component of the product that is not manufactured in the country by the company is the wax thermostatic element. Essentially the ‘brain’ of the system, it expands and contracts according to the temperature of the water. As temperature rises, the element expands closing the supply of hot water and releasing cold water into the system. When temperature decreases, it contracts to allow hot water into the pipe. The company imports its thermostatic element from France, which is considered a world leader in the field.
It remains a serious concern that burn injuries account for about 180 000 deaths every year throughout the world. “The highest burn-related deaths are in low- and middle-income countries. These burns are usually as a result of an accident at home. Scalding and flames are the most common causes of burn injuries in developed and developing countries, including in South Africa. To what extent poor plumbing contributes to this worrying state of affairs still needs to be investigated. Unlike other countries in the world, we do not keep such statistics. However, I am sure that, if we were to undertake such an investigation, it
would be a real eye-opener. This is considering the extent of substandard plumbing workmanship and the use of poor-quality plumbing products in the country,” Reynolds concludes.
The status of Certificates of compliance (CoC’s) for electric water heaters (geysers)
Since the change of SANS 10254 on 24 June 2022, there is no longer ANY requirement in any standard, regulation or act for a CoC to be issued for any installation or repair of a geyser. Claims to the contrary are incorrect. There are some municipalities which still require a CoC to be issued in terms of their by-laws, which remains a legal requirement irrespective of the changes to SANS 10254. The majority of these municipalities require a PIRB CoC. If, at some time in the future, there are any amendments to this, we will inform industry immediately.
Clients (e.g. property owners, developers, insurance companies, etc.), are well within their rights to require their service providers to issue a CoC. They may choose to use any form of CoC, from any individual or company, based on their own criteria to ensure quality, safety and accountability. In short, it is entirely voluntary.
Plumbers too have the right to either issue a CoC or not (depending on their client’s requirements). In this regard we strongly recommend that plumbers choose to continue issuing CoC’s as this brings professionalism, traceability and accountability to the industry. The selection of which form of CoC to use is important and is dealt with below.
The status of Certificates of compliance (CoC’s) for solar water heaters and heat pumps.
Although SABS has made it clear that it will be removing all requirements for CoC’s from all standards, for all industries in the near future. The current requirements to issue a PIRB CoC for these types of installations remains a requirement. If these standards are amended, we will notify you immediately.
The status of notifications of pre-existing non-compliances.
It is important to note that, in terms of the Consumer Protection Act, irrespective of any changes to standards, plumbers who are repairing or replacing water heaters MUST still notify the owners/users of any pre-existing non-compliances in writing. Nothing has changed in this regard. It is a very important requirement which allows the owner to make an informed decision whilst protecting the plumber from potential liability for work which they did not complete.
Selecting the right CoC for you.
In choosing which CoC to use, we recommend that plumbers and clients consider the following when making their decision;
In evaluating these criteria it is important to choose a CoC not because it is “easy” or “cheaper” but to choose a CoC which has real meaningful value and substance. A CoC which enhances professionalism, safety and upliftment of the industry.
COVID-19 outbreaks in high-rise buildings suggested the transmission route of fecal-aerosol-inhalation due to the involvement of viral aerosols in sewer stacks. The vertical transmission is likely due to the failure of water traps that allow viral aerosols to spread through sewer stacks. This process can be further facilitated by the chimney effect in vent stack, extract ventilation in bathrooms, or wind-induced air pressure fluctuations. To eliminate the risk of such vertical disease spread, the installation of protective devices is highly encouraged in high-rise buildings. Although the mechanism of vertical pathogen spread through drainage pipeline has been illustrated by tracer gas or microbial experiments and numerical modeling, more research is needed to support the update of regulatory and design standards for sewerage facilities.
During the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) viruses have been spread around the world causing respiratory symptoms, pneumonia, and deaths [1,2]. Many national governments limited social interactions and restrained economic activities to mitigate COVID-19 transmission, leading to isolation and hardship. The rapidly emerging new variants of concern, such as Delta and Omicron, create new challenges for countries even with a high vaccination rate .
The highly contagious SARS-CoV-2 exploited many routes to be transmitted among people, including human-to-human transmission under close contact by sprayed large droplets, or aerosol inhalation, and fomite transmission by touching contaminated surfaces with viral deposition . In addition, SARS-CoV-2 viruses are excreted into the stool of infected individuals and enter sewers after toilet flushing [5,6], as confirmed by the detection of SARS-CoV-2 gene markers in wastewater samples globally [7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13]. Many countries have implemented routine wastewater surveillance programs for the presence and concentration of SARS-CoV-2 in different sewer catchments or wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) [14, 15, 16]. Hence, the wastewater in sewers is also a potential transmission vehicle for SARS-CoV-2.
The possibility of fecal-oral transmission has been proposed and discussed widely [17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23], supported by the isolation of viable viruses from human feces . Apart from fecal shedding, other sources containing active SARS-CoV-2 viruses, including sputum, nasal mucus, blood, and saliva, may also enter the wastewater in sewers [25, 26, 27]. Some strains of coronavirus could preserve infectivity in bulk wastewater for a few days [28,29], and in sewers for hours , thus potentially making small sewage droplets as a transmission pathway of COVID-19.
High-rise apartment buildings are common residential arrangements in many densely populated cities worldwide. The flats/units of high-rise buildings are usually connected to the same drainage system. This makes it possible that the aerosolized viral particles generated from toilet flushing can be transmitted through sewer stacks, including linked sewage and ventilation pipes [31, 32, 33], causing infections distributed vertically in the building towers linked with the same sewer stacks. This paper reviewed the reported cases of vertical outbreaks of COVID-19 and studies related to the viral transmission mechanisms in sewer stacks of high-rise buildings, most of which are within the last two years. Based on this, some recommendations and research needs were proposed for preventing the transmission of COVID-19 in high-rise buildings.
The vertical outbreak came into the spotlight as a serious severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak that happened back in 2003 at a private residential apartment in Hong Kong, resulting in 42 deaths and 321 infected cases . For the current COVID-19 pandemic, 15 vertical outbreaks in residential buildings were reported in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China [35,36], and one outbreak in Seoul, South Korea  (Table 1). The infected cases were detected along the vertical line in the buildings connected by the same plumbing pipe. Moreover, most of the secondary infections resided on upper floors above the index case (Table 1). Additionally, the high risk of in-building infection is also a considerable concern for quarantine hotels and hospitals, where infected people frequently discharge viruses into the interconnected drainage system [38,39]. Therefore, it is likely that there have been more unrecognized vertical outbreaks as well.
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Commercial premises are significant consumers of municipal water. Despite comprising only 10% of municipalities’ total customer base, offices consume almost half of all water supplied by local government. In a water-scarce country such as South Africa, it is imperative that businesses continue to focus on reducing the water footprint of commercial premises. In doing so, they also save in water costs demonstrating that quality plumbing makes sound business sense. This is enough incentive for businesses to use water judiciously.
To help save water, many enterprising businesses are harnessing the wealth of knowledge that resides within the professional plumbing industry, spanning plumbers through to manufacturers and suppliers of innovative plumbing systems.
“Professional plumbers are at the cutting-edge of water efficiency. Considering the high demand for ‘green’ and ‘smart’ plumbing solutions in the country that is also being driven by the increasing costs of water and electricity in some cities, many plumbers have chosen to specialise in the field. They continue to keep pace with new plumbing technologies that are proving to be very effective in reducing water and energy use. These range from simple systems that have a large positive impact on water use through to sophisticated digital technologies that can even alert property owners of leaking hidden pipes on their premises so that they can take timely remedial action. This is not to mention the focus of manufacturers on designing and developing plumbing materials that last significantly longer to reduce potential leaks and maintenance costs for property owners, as well as the carbon footprint of their products. Qualified plumbers know when to recommend the use of these materials and how to correctly install them,” Brendan Reynolds, Executive Director of Institute of Plumbing of South Africa, says.
Addressing leaking plumbing is always a sound starting point when working towards reducing the water footprint of a commercial premises. Bear in mind that a leaking tap in the office kitchen or bathroom or toilet, for example, can waste up to 30l of water every hour. A qualified plumber will be able to correctly repair leaks and locate hidden faulty pipes on a commercial premises that can also run into exorbitant costs if left unchecked.
The next point of focus is usually the ablution facilities on a commercial premises. Toilet and urinal flushing, alone, use at least 43% and 20% of office-based water, respectively. When combined with washing in basins, ablution facilities can account for as much as 90% of total office water use.
Possible solutions include installing low flush toilets that only use six litres per flush. This is opposed to older toilets that use between 7,5l and as much as 13l per flush. In some instances, it may only be feasible to install water saving devices in existing cisterns as a
short- to medium-term solution. However, these interventions, alone, can save between one and three litres of water per flush.
Meanwhile, control devices can reduce urinal water use by as much as 70%. They may include timer controls that are set to match the hours that urinals are being used by staff. There are also more advanced solutions available to commercial property owners to help them reduce water demand. Qualified plumbers will be able to advise property owners as to which of these are the most suitable for their sites, as well as correctly install and maintain them. These include systems that use infra-red or ultrasound sensors that detect the presence of people and only then start supplying water. Others are triggered by variations in water pressure or flow when taps are opened in office ablution facilities.
Waterless urinals are also an option for some commercial premises. Such a system that replaces a conventional 3,7l per flush urinal can save about 150 000l of water a year. All waterless urinals work in a similar way. Urine is transferred via gravity from the basin through a seal in a cartridge and into a plumbing drain system. The seal prevents odours and sewer gasses from rising up the pipe and into the ablution facility.
Reynolds notes that a further advantage of these technologies is that they help to reduce the amount of wastewater that is released into the municipal system. This alleviates pressure on already-strained wastewater treatment works and mitigates pollution. As a result, the savings realised in reticulation and wastewater treatment costs can be spent more optimally on maintaining infrastructure and, in doing so, helping to attend to the serious sanitation challenges that the country is also facing.
Meanwhile, the office canteen can account for about 9% of total office water use. One of the contributors to high water use in the kitchen is inefficient taps. Taps used in these applications and ablution facilities for washing purposes can account for up to a third of office water use. Fitting outlet devices, such as sprays and aerators, to taps can reduce water use in these applications by as much as 80%. There are two such systems, namely atomisers and aerators. Atomisers disperse water into tiny droplets to wet larger surface areas with less water. Aerators, on the other hand, control the straightness and diameter of the streamflow and, in doing so, eliminating splash that wastes water. However, some commercial property owners prefer more sophisticated solutions to save water that is used in basins and sinks. Again, qualified plumbers will be able to provide important advice as to which of these will provide the best savings in water use. These systems include electronic sensor and timed turn-off push taps which, if properly installed and maintained by a professional plumber, prevent waste and flooding from taps that are left running.
After reducing water demand by implementing these interventions, many owners of commercial properties will augment water supply by harvesting rainwater. This “green plumbing” system has grown in popularity over the years and is, therefore, an important area of focus for many qualified plumbers in the country.
Rainwater harvesting collects and filters rainfall from the roof of buildings. Considering their size, many offices, large shopping centres, factories and warehouses provide ideal surfaces for harvesting rainwater. This water is stored in tanks and used for applications, such as flushing toilets, irrigation and cleaning, which accounts for about 1% of all office water use. A further spinoff of these systems is that they divert rainwater runoff and, in doing so, relieving pressure on severely strained municipal sewer systems. Rainwater harvesting remains an attractive proposition because of the system’s simple design and components, as well as low operating costs.
“The South African plumbing industry can play an even greater role in helping South Africa to reduce water demand as has been identified in the Department of Water and Sanitation’s Model Water Services Bylaws. Unfortunately, many municipalities are yet to implement them. Meanwhile, in the few jurisdictions where they have been put into effect, their enforcement has been lacking. This has led to an increase in the use of inferior plumbing products and substandard workmanship that has severely exacerbated our water and sanitation challenges,” Reynolds concludes.
The Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA) and the Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB) conducts the Plumbing National Survey annually.
Embargo: Monday 27 June 2022, 11:00
Construction industry, 2020
According to the Construction industry report released by Statistics South Africa today, 11 000 construction jobs were lost between 2011 (484 000) and 2020 (473 000). The biggest losses in jobs were recorded in the construction of civil engineering structures (-31 000) and site preparation (-9 000). However, there was a significant gain in other building completion (+39 000).
This is a periodic large sample survey of construction enterprises conducted every three to five years which reports on the nature and structure of the construction industry.
118 000 jobs losses between end of June 2017 and end of June 2020
The total number of persons employed at the end of June 2020 (473 000) decreased by 20% compared with those employed at the end of June 2017 (592 000). Large decreases in jobs were reported for civil engineering structures (-89 000) and buildings (-18 000).
The total income decreased by 7,1% between 2017 (R470 billion) and 2020 (R437 billion)
Comparing 2017 and 2020, a large decrease was reported for civil engineering structures (-R59 billion). However, large increases were reported for buildings (+R18 billion) and other building completion (+R7 billion) over the same period.
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Given the confusion and ongoing debate around Certificates of Compliance (CoC’s) in standards and the role of the professional body for plumbers (PIRB) it is important to clarify a few points.
The long process of amending SANS 10254 was completed on 24 June 2022 when the revised standard was gazetted. The only changes to the standard from the 2017 version were the removal of the requirement for a certificate of compliance and the removal of the reference to the professional body for plumbers PIRB. All other installation requirements remain the same.
Although SABS has decided that requirements for CoC’s will be removed from all standards for all industries, the requirement for a CoC on Solar water heater, heat pumps and grey water systems still remain in force until such time as these standards are updated. We strongly encourage all plumbers to adhere to the requirements of these standards.
In the absence of any other adequate mechanism to ensure compliance to the plumbing laws, regulations and standards the CoC has proved to be the most effective tool available. The reality is that the vast majority of municipalities do not have the capacity, skills or funding to enforce compliance. This includes organs of state as well. The plumbing industry has been flooded by unqualified “plumbers”, non-compliant materials and incorrect, dangerous installations. The impacts on homeowners’ health & safety, the environment, water security and damage to municipal infrastructure has been massive. Not to mention the impact on the formal plumbing sector which has declined every year since 2016, slowly being swallowed by the unregulated informal sector. The only CoC which currently has any meaningful impact is the PIRB CoC. If, in future, another CoC or some other mechanism emerges which is able to protect the public and qualified plumbers, IOPSA would consider supporting it too. For now, there is only one and without it (or something similar) our industry is in serious trouble. Irrespective of changes to SANS 10254, we still encourage all members to continue issuing CoC’s as this brings trust and professionalism to the industry and sets you apart from unqualified people operating in the industry.
Of great importance is that plumbers in the replacement market continue to notify clients of pre-existing non-conformances, in writing. This requirement of the Consumer Protection Act is critical in ensuring that owners are properly informed and can make an informed decision, whilst protecting plumbers from possible liability for work they did not do.
If we as an industry want the recognition that plumbers so rightly deserve as a successful professional career, then a professional body is very necessary. A professional body brings more to the table than a voluntary association and are subject to scrutiny by SAQA in terms of the NQF act. Not only does a professional body raise the awareness of professional plumbers but they ensure that those plumbers act professionally and that the public can rely on them. At the moment PIRB is the only SAQA recognised professional body for plumbers, hence IOPSA’s ongoing support. It must be noted that the support is not unconditional and IOPSA regularly challenges PIRB on a range of matters. If, in future, another recognised professional body for plumbers is established IOPSA will certainly consider them too.
It is important to understand that in all likelihood there will soon be a requirement for a CoC in some or other form, possibly though one or more of the government departments. Several government departments have already recognised the impending crisis that will unfold (and in some cases is already unfolding) if there is no mechanism to enforce the standards. Some of these departments are at an advanced stage in their deliberations and we are hopeful that they will be concluded in the very near future.
The PIRB CoC has been available for more than a decade. It was only after the benefits of the CoC became known that it was first incorporated in a SANS standard in 2014. The PIRB assured IOPSA that if the requirement for a CoC is removed from SANS 10254 the CoC’s will remain available for use and will be supported by IOPSA. Plumbers, consumers and all other parties will still be able to benefit from the value and more importantly the protection brought by the CoC.
There is ample evidence that South Africa’s water and sanitation situation is in real trouble. Plumbers obviously play a massive role in this sector and ensuring that there is compliance to the regulations and standards is critical. The effects that unqualified “plumbers”, non-compliance, sub-standard materials and poor plumbing practices are having on the country and our industry are well documented and unless we collectively do something to stem the tide we will all face serious consequences. IOPSA is determined to do whatever it can to protect its members and ensure that this situation is not allowed to continue.
Once again, I would like to thank all IOPSA members for their support, we really couldn’t do it without you.
To IOPSA Employees:
OHSS Consulting (Pty) Ltd has read through the latest government gazette No: 11447 issued 22 June 2022 on the “Regulations relating to the surveillance and the control of notifiable medical conditions: Repeal”, stating that the Regulations 16A, 16B and 16C of the Regulations relating to the surveillance and the control of notifiable medical conditions are hereby repealed.
Attached are copies of the Repeal as well as the 3 Regulations. Particularly looking at Regulation 16A: “Wearing of face masks to contain the spread of COVID-19”.
Since this is repealed and we no longer require employees to wear masks, we also want to ensure that we stand out as compliant and inclusive of personal opinion. With this in mind it is the suggestion of OHSS Consulting (Pty) Ltd to implement the following:
Keep a cloth mask or disposable masks available while visiting the premises of clients and ask them if they feel ok for employees to enter without a mask or if they feel they would still like a mask to be worn. Many may still feel scared or may still be unaware of the current repeal. Instead of pushing our own rights, we want to always ensure we uphold the rights and feelings of our clients.
That being said, it is only a suggestion, and we wish you to proceed with caution and act in a safe manner at all times while on any site.
To download the formal notice and Gazette, please click the links below:
Government Notice - May 2022
Government Gazette - June 2022
The number of unqualified “plumbers”1 working in South Africa’s plumbing industry has increased substantially. About 86.8% or 97 0002 self-identified plumbers in the industry are unqualified, which has had significant implications for business sustainability, the perceived level of skill in the industry, and the effective delivery of water and sanitation systems. The personal-professional development of unqualified plumbers is affected by this. The lack of a plumbing qualification prevents plumbers from gaining new skills in plumbing technology and green plumbing services, and from earning more income, either from increasing prices or switching to better-paying employers.
The aim of this policy brief is to quantify the extent of unqualified plumbers in South Africa and to provide insights into how the Artisan Recognition of Prior Learning (ARPL) model can assist with integrating skilled craftspeople into a recognised trade qualification, which can ultimately lead to career mobility and decent work in formal employment. A focus on ARPL can also be used as a tool to support transformation of the plumbing industry, and the education and training system in general. The brief also makes recommendations around the limitations of the ARPL model and alternatives to improve outcomes for skilled, but unqualified plumbers.
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Policy Brief by
POLICY BRIEF: 7/2022
* Please note that all articles are dated and content was valid at the time of publication.
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