South African body corporates and property owners are not doing proper due diligence when appointing service providers and are, therefore, increasingly exposing themselves to potential criminal and civil action. In many instances of late, insurance companies have rejected claims and even endorsed policies due to non-compliant installations.
Service providers are predominantly being appointed based on the price of their services, with scant regard given to their qualifications, skills and experience to perform the work that they are appointed to do. This potentially places the health and safety of occupants of buildings and entire communities at risk. These risks are especially high when dealing with trades such as electrical wiring and plumbing where sub-standard workmanship can lead to injury and even death.
Many body corporates and property owners do not know that they are responsible for injuries and fatalities caused by defective workmanship that has been performed by appointed service providers on their properties.
“For example, if an incorrectly installed plumbing system on your premises causes harm to others, criminal and civil action can be taken against you. This is because you created the hazard by appointing the unqualified service provider who performed the sub-standard work in the first place. There seems to be a lot of confusion around the difference between public and professional liability among body corporates. Public liability refers to claims by members of public for injury, illness, or damage. This is opposed to claims by property owners or tenants for professional mistakes made or negligence by their service providers. There is a significant difference between professional and public indemnity. Professional indemnity does not mitigate your criminal and civil liability in the event of an incident on your premises that causes injury, death or damage to property,” Chris Coetzee, Owner of OHSS Consulting, says.
Coetzee is an occupational health and safety (OH&S) expert. He is a Lead Auditor who holds qualifications in ISO 9000, ISO 14 000 and ISO 45 001 and is currently completing his International Diploma in International Occupational Health & Safety Management.
The OHSS Consulting team has been working closely with the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA) since 2017 to significantly raise OH&S protocol across its large membership.
Moreover, the company is working with IOPSA to educate body corporates and property owners as to the importance of always using qualified plumbers and the significant risk associated with non-compliant plumbing workmanship.
This is especially important in these challenging economic conditions in which body corporates are tempted to cut costs.
Another concern is that there is very seldom a clear budget set aside for the appointment of service providers. This is especially in cases where there is uncertainty among body corporates, homeowners, lessees or sub-lessees as to who is responsible for installing, repairing, replacing or maintaining plumbing. Therefore, service providers are appointed haphazardly and mainly based on who is able to provide their services at the most affordable rate when emergency plumbing work is required. In many instances, service providers who are not qualified to install, repair, replace or maintain plumbing installations are appointed. With very little in way of qualification, skills and experience, they can offer their services at very low rates. The fees of licensed plumbers include their qualifications, as well as the training that they invest in their staff to upgrade, hone or refine their skills and the equipment and materials that they use to ensure compliant plumbing workmanship. Not to mention the use of compliant products. This is in addition to the investment that they make into their own OH&S protocols, which is very rarely taken into consideration by body corporates. It is treated as something separate – something that is simply done for just the sake of it as opposed to an important part of business.
All of these efforts are important to ensure the sustainability of the South African plumbing industry. The use of unlicensed service providers, thus, also threatens the wellbeing of the local plumbing industry.
Coetzee believes that body corporates and property owners would be more mindful when appointing plumbers if they were aware of the risks associated with substandard plumbing workmanship and the extent of their liability should something go wrong.
Herman Strauss, Director of SA Watermark, concurs. SA Watermark is a register of plumbing components that comply with the relevant South African National Standard (SANS) standards. It provides IOPSA’s members with a quick means of ensuring that the products or materials that they use are compliant and, therefore, fit-for-purpose.
According to Strauss, the majority of property owners do not understand plumbing. Many are under the impression that it is a simple trade with very little that can go wrong, other than water losses due to a leak and consequent increase in water bills, although an important consideration in a water-stressed country such as South Africa.
“The question that is frequently asked by owners of property is: if incorrect plumbing is so dangerous, why have we not had more incidents that have resulted in a loss of life or serious injury? I have a fairly straightforward answer: we have good plumbing standards in place and
an industry that is among the best in the world. This has helped to safeguard occupants of buildings and the general public. Therefore, there have only been isolated incidents involving plumbing installations thus far. However, with the increase in the number of unqualified plumbers operating in the country, we are starting to see more incidences. In fact, recently we have become aware of several instances where insurance companies have rejected claims and even endorsed policies. This is a clear indication that insurers have recognised the significant risks of non-compliant plumbing installations and are taking very strong steps to mitigate against it,” Strauss says.
The risks associated with non-compliant plumbing can be severe. For example, a hot water system that has been installed incorrectly, can explode. Incorrect water temperatures can promote the growth of bacteria in plumbing installations that cause illness. It can also scald, with vulnerable individuals most at risk. Another hazard of substandard workmanship that is often overlooked by body corporates is the potential of sewer gases to leak from a faulty plumbing system into a building, potentially poisoning occupants. Meanwhile, fire hydrants and hoses that have been incorrectly located and with insufficient water pressure cannot be used effectively to quell a fire on a property. Poor plumbing workmanship is seldom practical or efficient.
Like Coetzee, he reminds that the onus lies with property owners to ensure that their plumbing is fit-for-purpose. If they knowingly use the services of un-qualified plumbers, they could very well be held liable for loss of life or injury, or damage to property that occurs on their premises due to non-compliant plumbing workmanship, irrespective of whether they are aware of relevant laws or not. In order to mitigate such risks, property owners must ensure that they only use the services of suitably qualified professionals.
However, it is the responsibility of all plumbers to ensure that they perform their duties according to clients’ expectations. This is also in line with the requirements of the Consumer Protection Act, which qualified plumbers take very seriously, in addition to the standards, regulations and protocols that regulate this trade.
A qualified plumber has both the hand skills and knowledge of the applicable SANS standards, protocols and plumbing legislation to install, maintain, replace or repair plumbing systems correctly as required by their clients.
Dealing with a plumber that is registered with the professional body for plumbers, the Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB) is a quick and efficient way for body corporates to ensure that they have appointed a competent service provider. All IOPSA members are registered with PIRB and are, therefore, able to deliver services according to the many standards, regulations and protocols that govern this industry to safeguard building occupants, communities and public and private property.
In keeping with IOPSA’s objective of engaging with local authorities, they recently met with Ekurhuleni.
The Building Control Officers (BCO) of Ekurhuleni had a training session with IOPSA in the Council Chambers at Edenvale.
Approx. 51 BCOs attended and Gerrie Botha presented the standards and by-laws for discussion. He reinforced that the BCO was vested with great power through these to enforce both compliance and competent people doing the work. In this case it was the qualified plumber. In the case of unqualified people doing plumbing work, the BCO has the power to have him/her removed from site, or preferably not even get as far as the site. The latter would be in discussion with the property owner at the planning stage.
Gerrie emphasised that every BCO must have a set of the compulsory standards. Failure to have this set leaves the BCO open to criticism and besides, it is part of the tools of the BCO profession. He warned of the dangers of using the internet as a point of reference as these are opinions and not the actual standards available only from SABS.
To answer the question of how one knows whether the plumber is qualified or not, Gerrie showed the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) certificate, which is the only certified proof of qualification for a plumber. He did confirm that there are still those holding the original qualification (Red Seal) which was acceptable. More to the point was the ‘plumber’ that had been doing plumbing for several years, without a qualification. While this was wrong and against the law, the aim should be to encourage such people to upgrade to a fully qualified plumber through several options available to them, including funding in some cases.
It was noted that IOPSA could offer to municipalities, at no charge for the first year, verification that the plumber is indeed qualified. A fast and efficient service for BCOs.
IOPSA also confirmed that as an organisation it does not issue a qualification certificate such as is required in the Skills Act. It will provide a certificate for courses/webinars they run which will clearly identify the name of the course and dates.
Executive director, Brendan Reynolds, reinforced that IOPSA was available to support and engage with the BCOs should they require assistance.
Reference was made to the PIRB, a voluntary registration and inspection/audit body, whereby a plumber can register and issue a Certificate of Compliance (COC) for a variety of plumbing jobs, which is left in the hands of the property owner. More details on PIRB can be found on www.pirb.co.za. Regarding the audit part of the PIRB mandate, this has been placed in the hands of IOPSA. Such an auditor will clearly identify themselves with an identity card as 5% of submitted COCs are audited.
Plumbing Africa had a brief chat with Thapelo Mogatusi, Interim Chief Building Control Officer for Ekurhuleni, who is a qualified architect.
He has 47 Building Control Officers for the area that covers some 1 975 square kilometres.
Mogatusi is very keen to encourage skills development and compliance. Such a focus he added was to the benefit of all parties including the Metro itself which would benefit financially as well as providing excellent service delivery – which benefits the public at large.
Stakeholder engagement was critical and he would work to build this up in the Metro.
In other words, “The BCO offers value in all aspects.”
Sadly, time was against us and Plumbing Africa and Mogatusi would meet for a more detailed interview.
Time was up for Plumbing Africa as well so we could not enjoy training manager Steve Van Zyl’s talk, but by the look of all the plumbing fittings around him the BCOs were about to enjoy examples of compliance and non-compliance.
It is just a matter of time before South Africa experiences a very serious outbreak of cholera and other waterborne pathogens, such as salmonella, typhoid and hepatitis.
This is considering the critical state of the country’s waterborne sanitation system, which is being exacerbated by widespread illegal plumbing practices.
“When assessing the risk of waterborne disease in the country, the focus is usually on the lack of sanitation and water infrastructure in the rural areas, townships and informal settlements. While this may have been the cause of previous and the more recent outbreaks of cholera, illegal plumbing practices in the urban areas have also become a significant contributor to the onset of an imminent crisis. Over the years, there has been a marked increase in the number of illegal interconnections of sewer and rainwater systems across the country. This practice is a major contributor to the rapid deterioration of our waterborne sanitation system and urban water cycle, placing whole communities at risk of exposure to waterborne pathogens,” Steve van Zyl, National Technical Manager of the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA), says.
IOPSA members are qualified plumbers. They will, therefore, never connect rainwater gutters and gullies to stormwater drainage systems and will advise property owners against this practice when asked to assist them to do so or when they see these types of installations on premises. Many property owners of all sizes do not know that it is illegal to discharge stormwater into the sewer system, although this is not an excuse for breaking the law. In other instances, property owners deliberately choose to ignore warnings against the release of stormwater into the sewer system. They are aided by unqualified plumbers who do not know better or unscrupulous operators.
Illegal house downpipe collection to municipal sewers is among the lead causes of stormwater inflows and groundwater infiltration into sewers in South Africa. It overwhelms entire waterborne sanitation systems, spanning collection and conveyance of sewage through to the actual wastewater treatment component. These were never designed to handle stormwater – and certainly not at the quantities that are currently being dispensed in sewers from the many roofs of houses in South African suburbs. They are already buckling under the strain of a significant growth in demand for sanitation services as cities continue to grow at an unprecedented rate. Certainly, lack of maintenance; inadequate planning and underinvestment in services delivery infrastructure; and poorly constructed systems are compounding the problem.
During heavy rainfall, there are overflows and sewage spills from sewer pipes that are filled beyond capacity and from overwhelmed sewage pumpstations. WWTPs are also flooded, and the effectiveness of the biological process used to treat wastewater vastly reduced. This, ultimately, leads to higher pollution loads being discharged into adjacent river ecosystems.
Eradicating illegal house downpipe connections to municipal sewers will help to alleviate pressure on the country’s waterborne sewage system.
Poor enforcement of plumbing standards and regulations by authorities has provided an ideal environment in which inexperienced plumbers can operate without fear of repercussion, or for property owners to flout the rule of law.
Notably, regulating the industry is also one of the quickest and most cost-effective ways of making an impact. This is compared to upgrading the capacity of existing systems and constructing new infrastructure which involves long lead times and is costly, bearing in mind stretched municipal resources.
The recent Green Drop report, the latest since 2013, reveals the true extent of the sanitation challenge that the country is facing. It has gone from bad to worse, with the need to intervene having never been more urgent.
The report shows that sewage treatment capacity has declined even further since 2013. This has resulted in the release of larger volumes of wastewater of a significantly poorer quality into the environment over the past 10 years.
Of South Africa’s more than 800 municipal WWTPs, almost half obtained a score of 30% or less for their performance. This means that they are in a critical state, while the average Green Drop score across all provinces was 50%. Therefore, half of the country’s raw sewage and industrial waste is not being treated to the required standards. To obtain a Green Drop Certification, WWTPs need to obtain a score of at least 90%.
Meanwhile, aged, as well as poorly maintained and constructed sewer systems are barely coping with the increased demand for sanitation services. This is evidenced by vastly diminished sewer collection and conveyance levels, with large volumes of sewage being discharged into the environment before it even reaches the WWTPs.
“Certainly, the lack appropriate sanitation and drinking water in the rural areas, informal settlements and townships are pressing issues that must receive urgent attention. This is considering the large role that these have already played in cholera outbreaks in the country, including the recent cases from Gauteng. However, in South Africa, waterborne disease is no longer only a ‘infectious disease of poverty’ as it is described in developed countries of the world. It potentially impacts South Africans of all income levels. This real risk of a widespread outbreak of waterborne diseases is also being heightened by the decisions that are being made by suburban dwellers who are far removed from the townships, informal settlements and rural areas,” Van Zyl concludes.
Since 2015, South Africa has witnessed the emergence of a new kind of criminality in the form of organized groups targeting the construction sector under the banner of ‘radical economic transformation’. Dubbed the ‘construction mafia’ in the media,1 these people have organized themselves into groups known as ‘local business forums’ and invaded construction sites across the country, demanding money or a stake in development projects in what can arguably be described as systemic extortion.
While no country is immune to systemic extortion from criminal groups, the extent and impact of the activity depend on the abilities of state governance to address extortion economies as they arise.3 In South Africa, the activities of the so-called construction mafia have been fuelled by the weak response from the state, allowing them to expand their activities. In 2019, at least 183 infrastructure and construction projects worth more that R63 billion had been affected by these disruptions across the country.4 Since then, invasions have continued at construction sites across South Africa.
In this context, this report by the GI-TOC focuses on understanding how these groups, widely referred to as the construction mafia, operate, their involvement in systemic extortion, and the long-term implications for the construction industry in South Africa and the country as a whole.
Non-sewered sanitation (NSS) technologies are not only a feasible solution for poor areas of the country that lack basic services. It is illogical that South African homes in the urban areas use up to 12l of potable water just to flush their toilets. This is considering South Africa’s severe water crisis, with many areas of the country already experiencing shortages due to severe droughts. The challenge is being compounded by dilapidated infrastructure, mismanagement and load-shedding.
Conventional toilets are extremely water intensive contributing to about 30% of a household’s total water consumption. Certainly, water-saving toilets play an important role in reducing the water footprint of homes and buildings. Some of these technologies consume up to 20% less water than traditional flush toilets. However, with about 63% of the population using flushing toilets, Sello Mokawane, Vice-President of the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA), says that these technologies are insufficient intervention.
“More will need to be done considering the sheer extent of the water and sanitation challenges with which we grapple. While water shortages are becoming a common occurrence in the urban nodes, many South African citizens who live in the rural areas and informal settlements have had to do without this basic human right for many years. It has long been their norm, while quality drinking water is being flushed down the toilet in the middle- and high-income areas. At the same time, our existing sanitation infrastructure is buckling under the strain of rapid urbanisation and development, compounded by mismanagement of this infrastructure. It is a concern that more than 330 of our 852 wastewater-treatment works (WWTWs) are in a critical state. This is happening while many of the rural areas and informal settlements have never had access to sanitation infrastructure that distances people from harmful pathogens and bacteria. Both situations also compromise the quality of our clean water resources. Only 54% of the population can access clean drinking water and about 33% of South Africans do not have sanitation services for the safe handling and management of waste. Considering this growing backlog, it is questionable whether we will meet Sustainable Development Goal 6, which aims to provide access to quality water and sanitation to all South Africans by 2030. SDG 6 is also in line with
Vision 2030 of the National Development Plan and Medium-Term Strategic Framework Outcome Targets, as well as a driver of the National Water & Sanitation Master Plan. NSS technologies can be implemented quicker and more cost-effectively than large, centralised systems and are, therefore, a way of achieving our water and sanitation goals,” Mokawane says.
IOPSA members are increasingly expanding their skills to service the growing “green” plumbing market. A case in point is the role that they are playing in helping property owners to safely use greywater for applications such as flushing toilets. They are also equipped with the skills that are needed to install, maintain and repair rainwater harvesting systems. These significantly reduce water footprints of houses and buildings, especially when rainwater is used for water-intensive toilet flushing purposes.
Certainly, IOPSA members are also knowledgeable in the installation, repair and maintenance of non-waterborne sanitation systems. Their skills and experience encompass all the technologies that are currently being used in the country, such as pit latrines, as well as Ventilated Improved Pit and Ventilated Improved Double Pit Toilets. This is in addition to short-cycle alternating double-pit toilets; pour flush latrines; and urine diverting dry toilets. If properly installed, these technologies provide an affordable and practical solution for rural and peri-rural areas where conventional water-borne sanitation systems are not feasible. Certainly, there has also been a growing interest in the technology in urban areas where municipal services are deteriorating at an alarming rate. Property owners are, thus, increasingly exploring ways of reducing their reliance on municipal supplies.
IOPSA members are trained to install, maintain and repair these technologies according to SANS 10400-Part Q. This national standard ensures the healthy handling and treatment of effluent for non-waterborne sewage systems.
However, new and more efficient NSS systems are being introduced to the country that bridge the huge divide that currently exists between conventional pit latrines and waterborne sewage solutions. They are also more socially acceptable alternatives to existing non-waterborne sewage systems. This should help to drive their uptake in the urban areas.
Enterprising plumbers have, therefore, already familiarised themselves with the new SANS 30500 standard which enables the testing and validation of these next-generation NSS technologies.
Notably, IOPSA recently participated in two field studies involving NSS systems. Plumbing students were also invited to participate to expose them to these exciting new “green” plumbing technologies.
The stellar work in mainstreaming these technologies is being driven by the Water Research Commission’s Sanitation Transformational Initiative.
It is being supported by government through impressive legal and policy frameworks. A case in point is the national sanitation policy which focuses on the entire sanitation value chain. In doing so, it recognises the economic value of sanitation and emphasis is given to both urban and rural sanitation, as well as on- and off-site systems.
The previous Minister of Water and Sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane, was very outspoken about the applicability of this technology in the urban areas. She said that government needed to “begin challenging the property development sector through regulation and licensing to invest in developing properties less reliant on water for sanitation”. This would “ensure that we introduce alternative solutions to low-, middle- and high-income areas”.
These NSS systems are prefabricated integrated treatment units. They comprise a toilet at the front end and a treatment facility at the backend. They collect, convey and fully treat the waste that is introduced to the system. Therefore, they are not connected to any sewer or drainage network that sends sewerage to a wastewater-treatment works.
An example of such technology is a toilet that uses a full water cycling process to treat sewage. A rainwater collecting system can also replenish the water to the processor for treatment before it is recycled to the storage tank for flushing. Blackwater from the toilet is pumped up to the sewage processor for treatment and then recycled to the storage tank for flushing. The core of the technology is a sophisticated biofilm membrane reactor treatment process. It produces a stable and clean effluent that is further disinfected to ensure that it is safe for reuse.
“I do believe that these systems will gradually become the norm as opposed to the alternative. This is considering the ease at which they can be implemented and their cost-efficiency versus large, centralised sanitation infrastructure. Between 2015 and 2030, it is estimated that 18,3-million South Africans will require basic sanitation services to end open defecation. This calls for a US$370-million annual investment into sanitation infrastructure. Add to this the need to safely manage faecal sludge from all sources, including WWTWs, which requires a further annual US$970-million investment. In 2019/2020, South Africa only invested R17,5-billion into sanitation, which was nowhere near enough to address existing backlogs and new services. It is a significant challenge that requires ‘out of box’ thinking with the diverse skills and experience of the plumbing fraternity harnessed as part of the solution,” Mokawane concludes.
In March 2023 a delegation from IOPSA visited Germany to attend the World Plumbing Council (WPC) general meeting which was held as part of the ISH trade fair in Frankfurt, Germany. Whilst in the country, IOPSA used the opportunity to meet with Kreishandwerkerschaft (KH) in Munster they are an artisan education body. The delegation was made up of Adriaan Myburg (President), Brendan Reynolds (Executive Director) and Steve van Zyl (Technical Manager).
World Plumbing Council meeting.
The WPC general meeting was held as part of the ISH trade fair. Delegates attended from USA, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Brazil and South Africa. Whilst various interesting and enlightening topics were discussed there were two clear themes that emerged from the conference.
Firstly, sustainability was probably the most discussed topic both in and out of the meeting. In particular energy and water. It is clear that the whole world is desperately trying to find solutions to climate change, global warming and the market demand for more sustainable solutions. Heat pumps were a much discussed solution which is increasingly gaining popularity. For example, Germany requires 600 000 heat pumps to be installed each year for 5 years, that is 1644 heat pumps every single day, a monumental task.
The second big theme from the meeting was the worldwide shortage of skilled plumbers. It is not so much that there is a shortage of people but rather a shortage of plumbers with the right skills needed to face modern challenges. Many countries are going to extraordinary lengths to attract both young and old to the trade. There was much discussion about the need for the migration of skilled plumbers from country to country, however, the reality is that this could take a long time to change. The bottom line, we all need to do more to encourage young people to join trades, encourage women to see the trades as a good career option and improve the standard of education.
The next World Plumbing Conference will be held in Shanghai 17 -20 October 2023 https://www.wpc-sh.com/
ISH Trade fair.
ISH is the largest plumbing and HVAC trade fair in the world. It is held at Messe in Frankfurt which is a huge trade fair venue. The scale of ISH is simply mind blowing, over 150 000 visitors from 150 countries, 2000 exhibitors in 12 halls totalling over 300 000 square metres. It is almost impossible to get through it all in the 5 days. For South Africans’ in particular the scale is hard to comprehend and the numbers are simply staggering.
Once again there were some themes that came across strongly.
It should be no surprise that this was a recurring theme and it really was, in almost every single conversation or exhibit sustainability was a theme. From the way products are manufactured, to packaging, to tooling, to installation methods, to the consumption of water and energy, virtually every product is trying to compete to be the most environmentally friendly. Of key importance to the SA market is that ceramics are out due to the high energy demands during production, new composite materials are taking over. 4.5lt flush is the new normal, no longer 6lt. PVC is completely out for waste water. Soldering of potable water pipes is now banned in Europe and many other parts of the world, crimping or pressing is all that is available.
Digital connected electronic plumbing components.
An incredible amount of product on the trade fair was “smart”. The trend from previous years seems to have blossomed and nearly every kind of product has some sort of electronic component and virtually all of them are connected in some way to a smart phone. From tools, to toilets, showers, baths plumbers will need to start improving their knowledge of electronics and the internet of things.
Colour is back!
Yes, believe it or not, every hall with sanitaryware and taps was a rainbow of colour, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was a 1980’s retro party. The move away from ceramics to composite materials has allowed for an incredible range of new colours and variations in design. Taps and mixers seem to be moving in the same direction with all manner of colours and finishes available.
Tools have also undergone a revolution, there is a definite focus on high quality tools that reduce the time, effort and difficulty of jobs. From lifting heavy objects, to pipe maintenance of every sort, new installation and testing tools the variety is endless. But these tools all have one thing in common, they all reduce the amount of time and labour needed to do a job. The efficiencies that the right tools can bring have been shown again and again.
Heat pumps, heat pumps, everywhere.
The sheer number of heat pump exhibitors and the vast number of people in those stands was hard to comprehend. The worldwide demand for heat pumps is incredible and the pace of technological advancements in heat pumps is phenomenal. It seems as though the whole world has decided that this is the best solution and they are investing in it in a big way. By far the most popular hall and by far the most talked about subject.
This visit was specifically to discuss the ongoing partnership between KH and IOPSA, specifically in regards to KH’s new project in Bloemfotein with Motheo College. We also discussed the possibility of skilled worker migration and gained a lot of insight into the German education system and methods of educating plumbers. KH kindly arranged for IOPSA to meet with a local plumber, Willers who have an extremely professional business. Visits to the Bosch Training Centre and Tece were also very useful in understanding how things are done in Germany. Finally a visit to Engergieland2050 and organisation which strives to improve sustainability in the region for some discussions of their success stories and looking for areas of cooperation.
IOPSA would like to thank the following organisations for their assistance in making the trip possible;
Calafrica, Patric Gordon
Caleffi SPA, Fabio Rossi
KH, Frank Tischner and Aika Drescher
On the 2nd of March 2023, the IOPSA team made up of Steve, Xolani, and Kate brought their expertise and enthusiasm to a technical high school in Polokwane, South Africa, where they taught students about the importance of plumbing and the various types of plumbing work available. The students in the pictures were all interested in pursuing a career in plumbing and were eager to learn from the experts.
During their visit, the trio had fun with the students while also imparting valuable knowledge about the plumbing industry. They discussed the importance of plumbing in our daily lives and the diverse career opportunities available to those who pursue it.
One of the teachers in charge of the program, was thrilled to report that the uptake in plumbing had significantly grown over the past year. The program had only 14 students a year ago, but now has almost 40. This is excellent news for the industry, as it indicates a growing interest in plumbing as a career choice.
The students were not only interested in the various types of plumbing work, but they also asked great questions about the industry. One student, for example, asked how long it would take to become a master plumber. Steve's response was simple but powerful: "work hard, be passionate, and get there quickly because we need you."
The IOPSA team was thrilled to have the opportunity to engage with the next generation of plumbing heroes. They understand the importance of inspiring and educating the younger generation, who will one day be responsible for keeping our water systems functioning and our homes and businesses running smoothly.
In conclusion, Steve, Xolani, and Kate had a fantastic time teaching technical high school students in Polokwane about the importance of plumbing and the various types of plumbing work available. The students' growing interest in the industry is a promising sign for the future of plumbing, and the IOPSA team was privileged to engage with the next generation of plumbing heroes.
We have been made aware of statements by certain individuals and organisations on social media claiming that IOPSA is involved in legal action to silence certain individuals and organisations. These claims are entirely false, IOPSA is not involved with any legal action against anybody whatsoever.
We have, however, been informed that a social media platform was recently closed down apparently on the advice of that organisation’s own legal counsel. It has nothing whatsoever to do with IOPSA.
IOPSA believes very strongly in freedom of speech and has always been open to robust debate.
Having said this, we will not stand for racism, sexism, incitement to violence, religious intolerance, personal attacks or any other activities which are hurtful or harmful to individuals. Robust and even passionate debate is encouraged but it must be done in a calm, respectful way with the goal of achieving some positive outcomes or resolving disputes. IOPSA’s meetings and social media platforms have often seen such debates.
No member has ever been removed from a meeting or blocked from any of our social media platforms for such debate, nor will we ever support doing so.
To my knowledge, in the last 5 years, 2 people were removed from our social media platforms for racial posts and sadly we have needed to remove a few people from our meetings because they were drunk and unruly. We do not apologise for this and will continue to ensure that IOPSA meetings and social media platforms are safe spaces and are not used for the wrong purposes.
On a positive note, IOPSA has hit the ground running again this year. We have held meetings for the 1st time in Worchester, Modimolle and Middleburg and have plans to get to Tzaneen, Polokwane, Vereeniging, Soweto and Howick in the near future. Meanwhile we have completed training for municipal building inspectors in the Southern Cape and Waterberg districts and will soon be getting to Mopani, Ehlanzeni and Ekurhuleni. Positive engagements have been held with the Departments of Labour, Public Works, Water & Sanitation and SALGA.
100 IOPSA members received bursaries for solar and heat pump training. We are also partnering with SASOL to improve plumbing education at technical high schools and will be attending the World Plumbing Council meeting to be held at ISH in Germany. Whilst there we have arranged to meet colleges and education officials to see where we can improve. All this while dealing with training, the normal complaints, dispute resolution, technical issues and promoting our members and the industry.
Once again, I would like to thank all members for their support and positive engagements.
South Africa’s already-serious water crisis is being exacerbated by load shedding and this is expected to worsen as the country struggles to bring more electricity generation online. The country will experience at least two more years of persistent blackouts. This is as contingencies are made to maintain its aged coal power fleet which entails taking at least 3 000MW offline at a time.
The situation also brings to the fore the little progress South Africa has made in terms of integrating the planning of water and energy. This is despite the intrinsic connection between water and electricity, also referred to as the “energy-water nexus”. Aligning the planning of energy, water and food have become a major focus for many countries, considering their close relationship. The one cannot do without the other. This is evident in South Africa where power outages now also threaten food security. A case in point is the large impact that load shedding has had on the poultry industry. Factories have been forced to pause continuous operations for as long as half a day at a time.
Eskom on its own uses just over 10 000l of water a second, considering that more than 80% of the country’s electricity is generated from coal-fired power stations. This is equivalent to the amount of water that one South African citizen uses in a year. It also pollutes even more water during its operations. In turn, this electricity is used to extract, convey and deliver water of the appropriate quality for diverse applications. Electricity is then used again to treat wastewater before being returned to the environment. On average, water and wastewater accounts for some 17% of energy consumption in a typical South African metropolitan.
During higher stages of loadshedding, the operation of water treatment plants and pumping stations have been interrupted for extended periods. Without a consistent flow of water, reservoirs, including reserve capacity, run dry leaving areas of the country with limited or no supplies at all.
In particular, Gauteng’s water supply system relies heavily on electricity to operate. This is considering the high elevation difference between the Vaal Dam and the Witwatersrand escarpment. The maximum pump head from the Vereeniging Wastewater Treatment Works over the escarpment is about 320m. For this reason, Rand Water has classified the availability, reliability, reliance and quantity of electricity supply as one of its Top 10 Strategic Risks in an annual report. The extent to which its operations are dependent upon a reliable supply of electricity was already demonstrated in 2018 when a City Power substation exploded and disrupted the operations of Eikenhof Pump Station. This led to widespread water shortages in Gauteng and even parts of the North West, although the problem was solved fairly quickly. However, the more recent rolling blackouts have left areas in the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality and the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality, especially in the high lying areas, without water for extended periods.
The City of Cape Town Metropolitan Municipality has also warned about the impact of load shedding on its water supply system. Again, communities that are especially at risk of low supplies or none at all are those that are located in high lying and mountainous areas because water cannot be pumped there. Meanwhile, several areas within the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, including Durban, experienced crippling water shortages during stage 5 and stage 6 loadshedding in 2022. This persisted for days on end. In Polokwane, Limpopo, strict water restrictions were implemented during high demand periods due to low and empty reservoirs as a result of rolling black outs. Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape was the first city to be beset by water shedding that was implemented by the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality to avert a crisis during this period.
This is on the back of the severe water and sanitation crisis with which the country has been grappling for many years before the recent persistent load shedding schedule that was implemented in the beginning of 2022. There are numerous reasons for this. Among others, they include the dire state of the country’s water infrastructure; pollution of water sources; and lack of planning for future requirements, not least of which is global climate change and rapid urbanisation. Certainly, endemic corruption in the system is also compounding the challenge and, now well entrenched, it will take time to root out.
Rural areas in most provinces of the country have long struggled with erratic supplies or none at all for extended periods. More than 30% of South African households do not have access to a reliable supply of water. A case in point is communities in Giyani in Limpopo who have had to make do without a reliable supply of water for many years with no real relief in sight. In some provinces, the problem is more prevalent. For example, the North West has long been struggling with widespread water shortages that have also impacted urban nodes, such as Brits. Meanwhile, many areas in the Eastern Cape, including Nelson Mandela Bay, were teetering towards a day zero due to a crippling drought and inadequate contingency planning before the onset of the latest energy crisis. Day Zero is when the taps will run dry in these towns. Cape Town narrowly averted such a scenario when the Theewaterskloof Dam ran dry due to the worst recorded drought in its history. However, there are still many areas of the province that are in the throes of a severe drought. For example, Theewaterskloof Local Municipality was recently forced to implement water shedding for six weeks in Grabouw due to an increase in demand.
Sello Mokawane, Vice President of the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA), warns that water shedding will become even more widespread as the water and energy crises deepen. This is considering the extent of the water and energy challenges that the country is facing. It is estimated that the country needs to invest R90-billion per year in water and sanitation infrastructure over the next decade to ensure reliable water supply and wastewater treatment. This includes refurbishing and upgrading of existing infrastructure and the construction of new such systems to support population and economic growth. Johannesburg Water, alone, needs R20-billion to repair its ageing infrastructure. Pressing repairs will cost the water authority R8-billion, for which it has budgeted.
“Water shedding has largely been localised thus far. However, at a national scale, their impacts will be far more severe than loadshedding. Bear in mind that there may not always be alternative solutions for water shedding. It is not as simple as installing a large generator at the last minute to power operations, although more businesses and homeowners are exploring ways of direct reuse/recycling and water outsourcing. However, implementing these solutions at a large scale takes time. The consequences of frequent and widespread water shedding will, therefore, be devastating, considering the critical role that water plays in the social and economic fabric of the country. Water is required to produce electricity from our many coal-fired coal power stations; to grow food crops; and for daily existence. We cannot do without it. It is, therefore, extremely important that we become more prudent in the way in which we use this important resource while there is still an opportunity to do so which is narrowing at an alarming rate. Demand-side management is the quickest way to make an impact. Considering the water-energy nexus, it will also help to relieve pressure on a strained electricity grid and reduce the carbon footprints of houses and buildings,” Mokawane says.
He points out that officially a single South African uses 234l of water a day. This is higher than the global average. Despite the water crisis that the country is facing, South Africa’s per capita water consumption is higher than the global average of 173l. But this is, in fact, not due to citizens’ consumption. Rather it is due to water that is lost between the water treatment plants and the consumer. This is commonly referred to as “non-revenue water”. In South Africa non-revenue water amounts to as much as 41%, largely due to leaks in municipal infrastructure, illegal connections and theft. This state of affairs is arguably the single biggest immediate challenge facing South Africa’s water sector.
There is a complete lack of regulation and enforcement of water installations, it is not surprising then that the vast majority of plumbing installations in the country are non-compliant, as per recent research undertaken by IOPSA. Research by the Water Research Commission has also shown that 60% of plumbing materials being sold are not compliant. A plumbing system that has been installed, maintained and repaired incorrectly is notoriously inefficient, both in terms of water and energy use.
Informed consumers will also make greater use of water efficiency systems. These include high-efficiency toilets, which only use 4,5l per flush compared to 6l per flush of older toilets. Meanwhile, high-efficiency showerheads use less than 7,5l of water per minute. High-efficiency taps have a flowrate of 5,6l. This is compared to the 8,3l flowrate of inefficient taps. Interventions such as these, combined with rainwater and greywater harvesting, as well as groundwater use, helped Cape Town to avert a looming disaster.
However, IOPSA members also know how to correctly install, maintain and repair tankless/instant water heaters, as well as solar water heater and heat pumps. This is in addition to water-efficient technologies, counting greywater and rainwater harvesting systems.
They are also skilled and experienced in connecting storage tanks to main water supply lines so that they fill automatically when municipal supplies are available.
In areas where there are protracted water interruptions, IOPSA members are even becoming involved in bulk water deliveries to residences and businesses.
“Forecasts indicate that water demand will exceed supply by 10% by 2030, driven by an increase in demand from the municipal, industrial and agricultural sectors. Other drivers include low water tariffs, inefficient use, inadequate cost recovery, leakages and inappropriate infrastructure choices. It is, therefore, imperative that South Africans understand the importance of conserving our water resources. In this way, we can foster a culture of using water efficiently and paying for these services,” Mokawane concludes.
Find out more information: www.iopsa.org/water-solutions
Water heating through conventional geysers is one of the largest consumers of domestic electricity supply in South Africa. With the growing challenge of loadshedding it is becoming essential that more homes use alternatives to conventional electric geysers. Moreover, the threat of climate change through global warming due to the unrelenting use of fossil fuels is driving people across the world to seek more sustainable solutions. Technologies such as heat pumps and solar water heaters (geysers) provide an excellent alternative. These technologies are mature and will significantly reduce electricity consumption if installed correctly. Sadly, the current qualification for plumbers does not include any education on these important technologies.
Using alternatives, such as solar water heaters and heat pumps, is a requirement of the National Building Regulations (SANS 10400-XA) on all new buildings. However, there is a lack of properly trained installers which is hampering the full implementation of these requirements. These legal requirements will have long term, sustainable impacts in reducing the country’s carbon footprint and it is important that all plumbers, architects, engineers and developers do their part.
Recognising the need, IOPSA, Skills for Prosperity and Harambee have partnered to provide free education on solar water heating and heat pumps to South African plumbers. At least 100 IOPSA members are currently receiving free training funded by Skills for Prosperity. These plumbers will greatly increase the capacity and skills within industry to take up the challenge and find positive sustainable solutions to many of the problems we face.
In the words of Malebogo Mosimege, Project Manager at IOPSA “The project is running smoothly, and we are proud to be able to deliver such important training to our members. Not only will these skills improve their ability to grow their businesses but it will also have a positive impact on the country and the environment. A real win-win for everyone involved. We are truly grateful for the support we have received from Skills for Prosperity and Harambee, they are great partners and are making a big difference to our industry in so many ways.”
IOPSA encourages all plumbers around the country to upskill themselves on these technologies which are becoming increasingly sought after. The time of the conventional electric geyser is coming to an end and plumbers need to get themselves skilled for the future.
* Please note that all articles are dated and content was valid at the time of publication.
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