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.
Click here to download the full policy brief
Policy Brief by
POLICY BRIEF: 7/2022
In an effort to understand the level of plumbing installation compliance throughout South Africa, the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA) decided to undertake research in April and May 2022. The research was conducted by 42 experienced plumbing inspectors (auditors) based throughout the country. IOPSA inspectors regularly inspect water heating installations as part of their duties. During these inspections the auditors requested permission from property owners to conduct a visual inspection of other aspects of their plumbing.
Note that inspectors only reported on what they could see externally, in order to fully ascertain compliance a more in-depth inspection would be needed. The purpose of this research was to get a statistically significant indication of the level of compliance. All inspections were done on properties in the formal sector. All reporting for this research was done on a voluntary basis and inspectors were not remunerated for their services. We would like to thank all those inspectors who participated for their efforts.
In total 725 properties were inspected in 8 provinces (no reporting was received from the North West province). Below is the breakdown per province, due to the low numbers from several provinces, this report will only focus on the total results as well as Gauteng and Western Cape.
Inspectors were not asked to report on the specific nature of a non-compliance, however they were instructed to only report on significant and/or critical safety failures, minor non-compliances were ignored in the reporting. Property owners were informed of these issues in order for them to make an informed decision. In many instances property owners did not give permission for the inspectors to inspect other aspects of the plumbing installations, hence the results are heavily weighted to water heating.
Inspections focused specifically on the installations and did not focus on the compliance of materials per se. Previous research by amongst others, Water Research Commission, have indicated that between 50% - 60% of all plumbing materials sold in South Africa are non-compliant.
In some cases, the inspectors were unable to determine whether the installations were compliant with the standards, regulations and by-laws. In these instances, the results were reported as “unsure”. This was largely due to the inspector being unable to see the entire installation without specialised equipment. For the purposes of this report IOPSA has given the benefit of the doubt to the property owner and recorded the “unsure” results as compliant.
Click here to download our full report to view the results
The Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA) is helping to drive quality solar-water heater installations, maintenance and repair in the country. This is as more property owners turn to solar to reduce their reliance on a severely strained national electricity grid, while also benefiting from reduced electricity bills and “greener” living. As the cost of the technology continues to decline, it is anticipated that more South African property owners will replace their conventional geysers with solar-water heaters. This will only place further pressure on the system to produce more skilled installers.
“There is currently a very high demand for suitably qualified installers, a field of specialisation in the plumbing profession,” Brendan Reynolds, Director of IOPSA, says. “As a result, there are many unqualified individuals who are being appointed to install, maintain and repair solar-water heaters in the country. This has led to numerous faulty installations that fuel distrust of the industry and false rumours that solar-water heating is ineffective. If installed correctly, this ‘green’ plumbing technology is much more efficient than conventional water-heating systems. Importantly, it is also safe to use, whereas an incorrectly installed solar-water heater can be downright dangerous,” Brendan Reynolds, Executive Director of IOPSA, says.
In response to this demand, IOPSA and the Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB), the professional body of plumbers, devised a temporary way of helping more qualified plumbers to attain a recognised qualification in the installation of solar-water heaters.
Qualified plumbers complete their training at a reputable training provider that is accredited by IOPSA. IOPSA assesses the candidates and issues them with a certificate when they have completed the course. Individuals who hold this certificate are recognised as “Solar Installers” by the PIRB. They are, therefore, permitted to install solar geysers and issue a Certificate of Compliance as required by SANS 10106.
They then compile a portfolio of projects for the Construction Education and Training Authority (CETA) to complete the practical component of their training. As these installers are already qualified plumbers, testing their hand skills is unnecessary. The assessment is, therefore, mainly based on theory and, specifically, their understanding of the SANS Standards requirements. Newly accepted solar installers are subjected to additional audits from PIRB. This ensures the timely detection of mistakes. Continuous failures and refusal to correct errors could lead to disciplinary action which may include the removal of the designation. In this way, the quality of the installation, maintenance and repair of solar-water heaters is ensured and the public protected.
These qualified professionals have completed the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) 244499 Installation and Maintenance of Solar-Water heaters Unit Standard. CETA applied for the revival of the unit standard to help overcome the many logistical challenges that qualified plumbers faced trying to complete the practical component of the stand-alone SAQA 94619 qualification. The request was granted by SAQA until the end of June 2023. By this time, it is intended to have a long-term solution in place that will continue to efficiently develop solar-water heater installation, maintenance and repair skills in the country.
Meanwhile, IOPSA has also made free training available to representatives of all municipalities to improve their understanding of solar-water heater installation, maintenance and repair. This will help them to better regulate workmanship in their jurisdictions. The increase in sub-standard installations, maintenance and repair of solar-water heaters can also be attributed to a lack of knowledge of the technology among many Building Inspectors and municipal officials.
“IOPSA has been in contact with relevant municipal officials so that they take advantage of this opportunity. We have also urged all qualified plumbers who are interested in solar-water heating or those already involved in the industry to undergo this process while it is still available. Meanwhile, property owners and the public must check the qualifications of the plumbers who they appoint to install, maintain or repair a solar geyser to avoid disaster,” Reynolds concludes.
Enterprising South African property developers are increasingly exploring ways of using water more efficiently. This trend has seen an increase in demand for qualified plumbers as they have the necessary skills and experience to help property developers and their professional teams implement water-efficient designs. This understanding transcends only the installation of water efficient taps and appliances, as well as ensuring that plumbing systems are installed, maintained and repaired correctly so that they do not waste water. The skills and experiences of qualified plumbers are also being harnessed in the next step of the water-management hierarchy which entails reusing available water on a property as part of a more holistic “green” plumbing solution.
“Many of our members have been appointed to work on innovative greywater and rainwater harvesting projects alongside consulting and wet services engineers. This is considering the extensive knowledge that Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA) members bring to these projects. It spans the correct installation of these systems through to the selection of appropriate materials that have been approved by standards authorities, as well as ensuring compliance with municipal bylaws. A further benefit of working with our members is that they are held accountable by IOPSA and, thus, provide follow-up should any problems arise with the installation of these systems,” Brendan Reynolds, Executive Director of IOPSA, says.
There are many examples of how these systems are helping property owners to conserve water and reduce their utility bills. A large industrial premises in the East Rand, for instance, only uses municipal water in the dry winter months. This is to top up rainwater supplies that it harvests and purifies to a drinking quality. Meanwhile, two commercial developments in Sandton have reduced potable water consumption by as much as 90% by harnessing rainwater harvesting technology and other efficient systems, such as air-cooled chillers.
There has also been growing interest in rainwater harvesting in the residential property market. In response to this demand, a large property developer intends implementing rainwater and greywater harvesting systems at all its lifestyle centres. The company has already achieved significant savings in water through effective demand-side management practices, and this development will enable it to further reduce reliance on municipal supplies. This focus on water efficiency is also demonstrated by the many International Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiency EDGE Advanced certifications that the company has received for its developments. EDGE Advanced certified developments reduce energy and water consumption by at least 40%.
Meanwhile, many private homeowners are also working with qualified plumbers to help them design and install rainwater-harvesting systems, with the rising cost of water also a major motivator for them pursuing “green” plumbing.
Qualified plumbers know how to correctly install downpipes from roofs to rainwater-storage tanks. This is in addition to the proper way in which to connect the tank overflow to a stormwater system and a pressure pump. Moreover, their knowledge has helped to avoid typical mistakes in the installation of rainwater tanks. These include locating tanks on a base that can erode in the rain or wind; using piping material that reacts with acidity in the rainwater; and specifying the incorrect-sized pump and pipes for an application. Another common mistake is installing pumps at a low outlet because they draw in sediment from the bottom of tanks into the system. Tanks also need to be of water-tight construction; covered with materials that are weather, insect and vermin proof; ventilated; and provide access for regular inspection and cleaning.
Certainly, significant strides have also been made in the country in the field of greywater reuse systems. A case in point is an automated greywater system at one the country’s universities. It collects shower water at campus residences, treats it and sends it back into the system for flushing toilets. This is a significant saving considering that flushing of toilets accounts for about 30% of all indoor water use.
It is often incorrectly assumed that these systems are simple to install. Meanwhile, substandard installations can also sometimes be a legal liability placing homeowners at risk.
Qualified plumbers will know how to correctly isolate the shower and bath greywater in the system for recycling and then route it to bathrooms to flush toilets. The installation will include a plumbed portion of the pipe from the unit as a riser branching off to the toilets. This is in addition to an overflow line that leads from the inflow pipe to the main building drain as a bypass in case the system is overloaded. Moreover, the installation will include a vent pipe overflow outlet that connects to the same drainage line to also prevent excess greywater from backing up into the system. A qualified plumber will also be required to install a vent line and, as this water is non-potable, all lines also need to be marked accordingly. Preventing backflow into the potable water system is also a crucial legal requirement that must be considered to prevent contamination. Certainly, correct maintenance of the system by a qualified plumber is also an important consideration.
“It is encouraging to see the growing interest in ‘green’ plumbing in a country where water is a very scarce resource. However, to realise the full benefits of these systems, which includes a smaller water footprint and savings in utility bills, it is imperative that qualified plumbers are involved in their installation, repair and maintenance,” Reynolds concludes.
Solar water heaters or geysers are becoming a much more popular method of heating water in South Africa. Over the past few years, the cost of installing these units has come down and with electricity prices continuing to increase at a rapid pace, they have become more financially viable. With Eskom once again implementing loadshedding, more homeowners are turning to solar as an alternative. The growing movement towards more sustainable living has also impacted the industry positively. With this growing demand, the need for suitably qualified installers is becoming urgent.
As most qualified plumbers will know, the installation of solar water heaters does not form part of the curriculum for a plumber. The knowledge needed to install solar water heaters correctly would significantly increase the requirements to complete a plumber qualification and it is not commonly seen as a requirement but rather a specialisation. With this in mind, a qualification was developed to meet the need. Initially a skills program was developed as an elective subject as part of the plumber qualification. This program, 244499, was 10 credits at NQF level 4. However, with the move away from the old learnerships with the unit standards education method this skills programme fell away.
A new qualification was developed and registered with the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). SAQA 94619 is a stand-alone qualification, in other words, there is no requirement for a person to be a qualified plumber in order to enter the program, something which IOPSA has great reservations about. The qualification is a NQF level 4 with 67 credits, which would typically take 6-8 months to complete. The cost of attending this qualification is estimated at around R25 000. It is not hard to see why qualified plumbers have not taken up the challenge; it is expensive and would require them to take a lot of time off work, something that most plumbers cannot afford to do. A few training providers have registered for accreditation in the qualification, but IOPSA was not able to find a single person who has qualified through this route.
With a desperate need for solar installers and no uptake from industry, it seemed that a crisis was unfolding. Fortunately, in the interim, CETA applied for the old skills program (244499) to be revived and this request was granted by QCTO (Quality Control for Trade Occupations) until 30 June 2023. This created space for industry to put in place an interim solution. But there was a stumbling block; the skills program requires practical on the job installations to take place. The conundrum is that plumbers cannot legally install solar water heaters without a qualification, but they cannot get the qualification without doing installations. All good and well for an apprentice working under a qualified plumber but what about the already qualified plumber, especially if they already own their own business.
This is where IOPSA and PIRB stepped in to come up with a temporary solution. An already qualified plumber can do the skills program with any accredited training provider. For quality control purposes, the training provider would need to additionally register for accreditation with IOPSA. The candidates then apply for an assessment by IOPSA. On successfully completing the assessment they receive an IOPSA certificate. This certificate is accepted by the PIRB, the professional body for plumbers, and the individual is granted the designation of Solar Installer. This allows them to install solar geysers and issue the certificate of compliance (CoC) as required by SANS 10106. Thereby allowing the solar installer to put together a portfolio of evidence to submit to CETA in order to complete the practical portion of the qualification.
The fact that these solar installers are already qualified plumbers means that the testing of hand skills is not really necessary. The assessment is therefore based on theory and specifically, the requirements in the SANS Standards. Newly accepted solar installers are subjected to additional audits from PIRB. This ensures that any mistakes are picked up and rectified as soon as possible. Continuous failures and refusal to correct errors could lead to disciplinary action which may include the removal of the designation. In this manner, the quality of installations is ensured, and the public is protected.
Sadly, there are many unqualified individuals in the industry who continue to undertake solar installations without the required skills to the great frustration of everyone, especially homeowners. In many instances, this leads to distrust of the industry and false rumours that solar water heating is not effective. In fact, if solar water heaters are installed correctly, they can be far more effective than electric water heaters, but done incorrectly they can be ineffective and even downright dangerous. There is a lack of knowledge on solar water heaters amongst most Building Inspectors and municipal officials which is allowing this state of affairs to continue. IOPSA has made free training available to any municipality which requests it to assist in this regard. IOPSA encourages municipalities to make use of this service.
The window of opportunity is closing, and the skills program will only be available for one more year. IOPSA urges all qualified plumbers who are interested in solar water heating or those already involved in the industry to take the opportunity while it is still available. In future it could be very costly and time consuming to get qualified. Property owners and the public are urged to check the qualifications of plumbers before having a solar geyser installed or repaired to avoid disaster. The easiest way to do this is to check the individual’s registration with www.pirb.co.za
On Tap Plumbing and Bathrooms has recently taken up residence at the Waterfall Ridge Shopping Centre in Midrand. The store has a beautiful and upmarket showroom and will be able to cater for the vast plumbing, bathroom & kitchen development happening in the area.
The Waterfall Ridge Store will also be able to service far outlying areas through eCommerce Purchases or Customised Quotes at www.ontap.co.za for a very marginal delivery fee.
“The thinking behind moving the On Tap Plumbing and Bathrooms Brand into the Waterfall Ridge Precinct was to position our Fast, Friendly & Efficient ethos within an area, that due to its rapid development, is in high demand of high-end, quality products and service,” said Johan Van Wyk, the Managing Director of On Tap Plumbing and Bathrooms.
Get in touch with our On Tap Waterfall Ridge Store on 011 027 5445 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org
It is estimated that about 5-billion litres of raw sewage enter our freshwater resources on a daily basis. While a large portion of this sewage is from dysfunctional wastewater-treatment plants (WWTPs) with only 2% of these facilities operating at optimal levels, illegal plumbing installations are exacerbating the situation, which can be described as a national crisis.
“As plumbers, we still see many property owners, including homeowners, businesses and industrial operations, discharging rainwater into sewers. This is despite it being illegal to do so. The National Building Regulations clearly state that no person will allow sewage, effluent or any other objectionable materials to enter the watercourse. Most of the municipal bylaws also prohibit the practice of discharging rainwater into sewer systems so there is no ambiguity around the illegality of this practice,” Brendan Reynolds, Executive Director of the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA), says. IOPSA is the official mouthpiece of the professional plumbing industry with a strong membership consisting of many qualified plumbers.
As part of ongoing research, IOPSA inspected about 140 houses in an undisclosed Gauteng suburb to determine the extent of illegal discharging of rainwater into sewer systems in the country. Worryingly, between 30% and 40% of the houses examined by IOPSA directed rainwater into the sewer system, with many of the property owners unaware that they were on the wrong side of the law. It is a practice that is especially prevalent in new townhouse complexes where property developers, architects, or contractors lead downpipes into the sewer to remove rainwater from courtyards. This is a lot of rainwater that is being discharged into sewer systems, especially during the recent heavy rains that the country has been experiencing. Gauteng lately received between 50 mm and 100 mm of rain. Under these conditions, a house with a 10m x 10m roof structure will discharge 5 000l to 10 000l of rainwater from its downpipes. Complexes, factories and commercial premises discharge significantly more rainwater. A large building with a 50m x 50m roof structure, for example, is capable of discharging as much as 25 000l of rainwater when there is 10mm of rainfall. This is enough water to fill five 5 000l water tanks in a matter of minutes.
Considering the findings of IOPSA’s research on the percentage of houses that comply with the law, one suburb consisting of about 1 000 houses can potentially discharge more than a million litres of rainwater into our sewer systems.
Raw sewage flowing out of open manholes are a common occurrence in many suburbs of the country during storms. This is because the sewer pipes have been filled to the maximum capacity for extended periods. Never designed to handle these types of loads, they are being placed under extraordinary pressure. This potentially damages the municipal infrastructure, including the manhole covers when they burst open. There have also been many instances where raw sewage has flowed onto properties and into houses causing severe harm.
However, the biggest risk posed by this raw sewage is when it drains into natural watercourses and eventually finds its way into the country’s rivers, dams, WWTPs and oceans. The Hennops and Jukskei Rivers, as well as the Vaal Dam, for example, have been heavily polluted with sewage as a result of the situation. Meanwhile, beaches in KwaZulu-Natal have had to close for extended periods during peak holiday seasons on several occasions due to high levels of E. coli in the oceans. Posing a severe health risk, E. coli is always a strong indication of sewage or animal waste contamination. Having to close the beaches to the public due to high levels of E. coli also has a large negative impact on the province’s tourism industry, in addition to its potential impact on the health of communities that reside within the vicinity of the contaminated water body.
According to a study undertaken in 2013, 18 of the country’s 25 major rivers and one in five dams had undergone a process of eutrophication. This is when freshwater resources are enriched with effluent in the same way that agricultural dams do when they are exposed to nutrients. It can be expected that the situation has worsened over the past decade as most of our freshwater resources are vulnerable to this type of degradation under the current scenario. The Hartbeespoort Dam, which is used as both an irrigation source by farmers in the region and water activities by holidaymakers, is one of the country’s freshwater sources that has undergone eutrophication. With the water being rich in nutrients but low in oxygen, a heavy deep blue and green coloured algae has spread throughout the dam and generating cyanobacterial toxins. They can poison domestic and wild animals that drink the polluted water. Among those who have been impacted the most by the contamination of our freshwater resources in this manner are the many poor and vulnerable South African citizens. They are very reliant on our rivers and dams to sustain themselves. These freshwater sources supply fish, irrigation water for subsistence crops and drinking water for livestock, among other needs. Meanwhile, they are also potentially coming into contact with very harmful toxins.
Cleaning these contaminated freshwater sources is also an expensive and onerous undertaking. These resources could rather be spent surmounting many of the pressing socio-economic challenges that the country is currently facing.
Leading to a significant loss in biodiversity, eutrophication also has a significant negative impact on the environment. “According to the findings of an earlier study undertaken by environmental scientists, a 3km long section of the Hennops River between Irene and
Centurion is devoid of any lifeform because it is contaminated by effluent. However, this degradation is not confined to the water body, alone. It starts to spread from the river system into the surrounding ecology. For example, many trees have died along the banks of the contaminated Vaal River. It also leads to water-borne diseases, such as diarrhoea and cholera, threatening entire communities and resulting in a significant decline in the value of properties located close to the contaminated freshwater systems,” Reynolds says.
Major strain is also placed on the country’s WWTPs, which require additional resources to treat the water to a drinkable standard. At the same time, this contaminated water causes significant harm to the infrastructure and interrupts the entire treatment system. For example, it damages valves and kills natural bacteria that helps to treat the water. South Africa’s service delivery infrastructure is already in a worrying state, and this is only compounding the problem. It is estimated that it will cost R900-billion to repair the country’s ailing critical infrastructure assets, including WWTPs.
Another significant risk is the increased spread of “super bugs”, which are bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi that are resistant to most antibiotics and other medications that are commonly used to treat infections. WWTPs are unable to treat all waste in the water that they receive. While chlorine eliminates the weaker bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi, the stronger variety survive and strengthen. They are usually spread in hospitals and clinics. At present, partially metabolised medications, chemicals and detergents, among others, are being flushed down toilets and then mixing with human sewage and industrial effluent to create deadly cocktails. Leading scientists have expressed concern about the yet unknown risk of pathogens mixing with many different types of chemicals, industrial waste and other elements that are supposed to be contained in the sewer system, but are now ending up in rivers, streams and dams.
“Professional plumbers can help arrest the situation. This is by ensuring that we are always complying with laws and regulations on all of our projects to safeguard against raw sewage entering the country’s natural water courses. When we see downpipes being directed into sewers on premises, we should have the strength and conviction to speak up and propose alternatives, such as rainwater harvesting and subsoil drainage, to property owners. As professionals, we need to be willing to do the right thing for the community, ourselves and our families. We strongly encourage all homeowners to use the services of a properly qualified plumber to ensure that you stay on the right side of the law and help protect our vulnerable fresh water resources.” Reynolds concludes.
* Please note that all articles are dated and content was valid at the time of publication.
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