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.
When it comes to plumbing services, you want to make sure you're working with a professional who is knowledgeable, experienced, and reliable. That's why you should consider using a plumber who is registered with the Institute of Plumbing SA. Here are some of the key benefits of choosing a registered plumber:
1. Professionalism: Registered plumbers with the Institute of Plumbing SA have made a commitment to their trade and to providing high-quality services to their customers. They have proven their expertise and adhere to a code of ethics that ensures they provide honest and trustworthy services.
2. Expertise: The Institute of Plumbing SA is a well-respected organization that sets the standards for the plumbing industry in South Africa. By choosing a registered plumber, you can be confident that you're working with someone who has the knowledge and experience to tackle any plumbing issue, from routine maintenance to complex installations and repairs.
3. Quality workmanship: Registered plumbers are held to strict standards of quality workmanship, which means that their work is more likely to be done right the first time and to last. This can save you time and money in the long run.
4. Public liability insurance: All registered plumbers with the Institute of Plumbing SA are required to have public liability insurance, which provides financial protection in the event that something goes wrong with the work they do. This gives you peace of mind knowing that you're covered in case of any problems.
5. Peace of mind: When you choose a registered plumber, you can feel confident that you're working with someone who has the skills and experience to get the job done right. This peace of mind can be invaluable, especially when dealing with important plumbing issues.
Choosing a plumber who is registered with the Institute of Plumbing SA is a smart choice for anyone in need of plumbing services. By selecting a professional who has demonstrated their expertise, experience, and commitment to quality workmanship, you can ensure that you receive the best possible plumbing services.
Qualified plumbers are navigating a rapidly changing industry that is also fraught with many challenges that, in some instances, are being turned into opportunity with the help of the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA).
These “smart plumbing” technologies cater to the growing demand for convenience, as well as healthy and hygienic living and workspaces. They also help property owners to better manage their water demands; lower the total operating costs of their plumbing installations; and reduce their water footprint. A case in point is the absolute control over water consumption that smart water meters provide property owners. These systems use wireless technology to enable remote monitoring of water use, providing accurate data around the clock. Meanwhile, “smart” water-management systems facilitate early leak detection and water outages, in addition to their ability to report faults automatically.
Mokawane says that the growth in demand for “smart plumbing” systems, such as touchless technology, is also being driven by a growing elderly population. More people are living longer than ever before. In their senior years, they require plumbing solutions that offer convenience, comfort and safety. This is over-and-above other plumbing technologies that are also appropriate for frail people, such as thermostatic mixing valves that protect against scalding and simple to use single-lever taps and mixers.
They are also a digitally connected generation that prefers to communicate via apps and social media as opposed to other more traditional methods, such as email and telephone calls.
“It is vitally important that plumbers adapt and respond quickly to these new opportunities for growth which can be described as a silver lining to an otherwise very challenging time for most businesses. We look forward to continuing to assist existing and new IOPSA members navigate change and the many obstacles that lie ahead of their business journey,” Mokawane concludes.
World Toilet Day celebrations kicked off on a high note, when the Institute of Plumbers (IOPSA) made computers available to young plumbers, in Midrand, on Friday, 18 November 2022.
Young plumbers from disadvantaged communities face an array of challenges in setting up their own businesses and this includes not having access to transport to go to work sites or for collecting building and work material, as well as a lack of data to communicate with clients. Often, young plumbers cannot prepare professional quotations for their clients, while at other times, they are unable to email their quotations to clients. While these challenges may seem small, it has a major impact on the ability of newly qualified plumbers to interact well with their clients.
IOPSA is very familiar with the challenges and are always finding new ways to support new young entrepreneurs in the plumbing industry. To this end, IOPSA is now working with the Quilder non-profit company (NPC), that is based in Midrand, so that young plumbers can have access to computers and wifi for better interactions with their clients.
Nick Joubert, the National Training Manager from IOPSA notes that “the IOPSA offices in Edenvale remain a hub of support for young plumbers and with the Quilder offices in Midrand, our young plumbers will have access to another facility and location for support.”
“The location of the Quilder NPC offices in Midrand, will enable young plumbers from Tembisa, Ivory Park, the Kyalami Agricultural Holdings and many other areas in the vicinity, to access the computers that IOPSA donated. This in turn will allow those entrepreneurs to network with others, to complete their basic administrative business functions”, comments Brendan Reynolds, Executive Director of IOPSA.
Caption for photo: Nick Joubert, Brenden Reynolds with Janine Julies and a few young entrepreneurs from Quilder NPC.
The proposed Water and Sanitation Industrialisation Master Plan aims to arrest years of erosion of South African capacity to design and manufacture competitively priced, quality plumbing products for both the local and international markets.
Trade & Industrial Policy Strategies’ (TIPS) extensive research into the current status of the water and sanitation value chain, as well as the South African plumbing industry form the basis of this Master Plan. This includes TIPS’ most recent findings into South Africa’s ability to design, manufacture and supply competitively priced, quality water and sanitation products. The report has identified many challenges that local manufacturers of water and sanitation products face and suggests solutions to resuscitate the industry. It complements the Department of Water and Sanitation’s National Water and Sanitation Master Plan that was released in 2018. These policy documents are also intended to be used together with master plans that have already been developed for the reindustrialisation of the plastics, steel and chemicals value chains.
The findings of these reports and the proposed drafting of a Water and Sanitation Industrialisation Master Plan have been well received by the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA). “Like so many other South African industries, the plumbing supply chain has undergone significant de-industrialisation over the years. This has resulted in major losses in semi-skilled and skilled jobs, in addition to skills development and training opportunities, exacerbating already-high unemployment in the country. The dire situation also impedes our ability to innovate in a country that needs unique solutions to help better manage our severe water and sanitation crises. As our factories have gradually closed their doors and been replaced with warehouses full of goods that are manufactured in other countries, there has also been a rise in the use of sub-standard products. This places consumers, property and municipal assets at risk, while seriously exacerbating our water and sanitation challenges. We need a robust strategy to arrest the decimation and I believe that this masterplan articulates it very well. Of course, now we need to implement its suggestions. This requires significant effort from all stakeholders in both the private and public sectors,” Brendan Reynolds, Executive Director of IOPSA, says.
The biggest threats to local manufacturers of plumbing products are cheap imports as a result of practices such as dumping, under-invoicing, mis-declaration and the general undervaluing of imported goods. It is almost impossible for local manufacturers to compete against these products, and many have, therefore, had to close their doors. For example, only two South African borehole pump manufacturers are still operating under these difficult conditions. The other 10 have closed down because they simply could not compete on this very unlevel playing field. This sector is being devastated in the same way that was done to the country’s taps, as well as copper or brass compression fittings manufacturers. South Africa no longer manufactures any of these products. They are all imported.
A robust South African Revenue Services (SARS) will help to curtail these fraudulent practices. The masterplan, therefore, suggests urgently staffing SARS with the resources and skills that it needs to investigate these cases and verify under-invoicing, mis-declaration, general undervaluing of imported goods and dumping.
There is also a need to address poor monitoring and policing of municipal procurement practices, as well as enforcement of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) codes of good practice. This is considering that many companies are bypassing local content requirements and supplying cheap imported designated and regular goods to municipalities. Worse still, many of these imported products are of a very poor quality. They, therefore, breakdown regularly, leading to downtime that hinders municipal service delivery, while repair and replacement costs place an additional financial burden on already-stretched municipal budgets. These practices also deprive local manufacturers of the support that they need to innovate to develop technologies that will help to improve service delivery in the municipal sector.
The masterplan also encourages retailers and wholesalers to work closely with local manufacturers to identify imported products, especially sanitary ware, as well as tubes and pipes, that could possibly be substituted with locally manufactured goods. There was an earlier call for closer collaboration between merchants and manufacturers to promote locally produced water and sanitation products. However, this is yet to take place.
Another earlier suggestion that has gone unnoticed was to closely monitor the importation of steel products. It was proposed that import rebates only be considered when security of local supply of products could be assured. Security of local supply has not been achieved and rebates on steel products are still in place, undermining local manufacture.
The TIPS report also suggests an urgent review of some of the quality standards for water and sanitation products as they may no longer be fit for purpose. There are concerns that these standards may be too high or low. It is, thus, important to determine if this is, indeed, the case; whether it is hindering the local design and manufacture of water and sanitation products; and, if so, to what extent.
Reynolds agrees with the findings of TIPS that there are gaps and “regulatory incoherence” between the National Water Act, the National Building Standards Act and the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications Act (NRCS Act) that need to be urgently addressed. These loopholes allow the use of sub-standard imported plumbing products with impunity.
He explains, “The National Water Act has a bearing on the supply and quality of water. It, therefore, tasks municipalities with the development of by-laws to regulate water in their jurisdictions. Yet, no legislation or capacity exists for policing the regulation of water in buildings. Therefore, Building Control Officers do not inspect water installations, and their
duties are limited to wastewater and sewer disposal inside buildings. Moreover, not all of the municipalities employ Building Control Officers. Meanwhile, the National Building
Standards Act, which is housed in The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, does not stipulate specifications for water supply to buildings, including for water installations. Yet, it prescribes regulations for sewers. There are also significant regulatory inconsistencies between the National Building Standards Act and the NRCS Act that create further ambiguities. As TIPS notes, we need to have a single regulatory framework or at least coherence between the two acts.”
As no legal requirements for the verification of plumbing compliance exist, enforcement of plumbing products and installations remains very poor. The NRCS Act is not authorised to act against non-compliant products other than geysers. Due to a lack of regulation, some retailers have even admitted to stocking sub-standard imported products for their survival. This is despite the risk that this practice poses to consumers who cannot verify whether products are of a suitable quality.
The masterplan also draws attention to insufficient product testing and certification capacity in the country. This has resulted in delays in testing and certification that have prevented manufacturers from taking their products to market timeously which impedes their ability to compete. Many companies have even closed down because they have not been able to attain the necessary certifications within a reasonable timeframe. It is compulsory for products to comply with some standards. Compliance with a single standard usually consists of many test methods at laboratories that are accredited to undertake them. However, the country’s various laboratories can only offer partially accredited tests for most compulsory standards. For example, South African National Standards (SANS) 226 for metal taps consists of 12 tests. SABS is accredited for eight of these tests; ATL for seven; and OMEGA for 11. TIPS has, therefore, suggested closer collaboration between private and public sector laboratories to increase testing and certification capacity in South Africa.
It is also time-consuming and costly for manufacturers to attain accreditation from the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) for their products. This further frustrates the efforts of local manufacturers and hampers innovation. The introduction of new and amended standards also require large capital outlays for laboratories, equipment and training of staff to test. Regulators are loathe to make this type of investment as there are insufficient manufacturers of new products in the country to justify the expense.
The high cost of attaining and maintaining SANAS accreditation also prevents many manufacturers from entering the market. There is also often a lack of understanding of the total cost involved in certifying products, especially new technology, among manufacturers.
The lengthy testing process can also be a hindrance. A typical certification process takes at least 32 days and field-testing up to 50 days.
Moreover, many water and sanitation goods and services have not been adequately designated or not at all. IOPSA and the Plumbing Industry Registration Board have committed to working with International Trade Administration Commission and the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications to review and expand water and sanitation-related product designations.
“The challenges that local designers and manufacturers of water and sanitation products face are extensive and complex and, therefore, cannot be solved overnight. Considering the severity of our water crisis with Gauteng now also facing acute water restrictions on the back of the country’s crumbling sanitation system, we cannot delay any longer. The focus should now be on ensuring that quality water and sanitation products are being used and that we have the local capacity to supply this demand and innovate to find solutions to these challenges. At the same time, a vibrant local plumbing manufacturing industry will help to absorb the many unemployed South Africans, especially the youth. In addition to creating stable employment prospects, the manufacturing industries provide immense opportunity for skills development and training,” Reynolds concludes.
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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* Please note that all articles are dated and content was valid at the time of publication.
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