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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There has been a concerning increase in the use of inferior thermostatic mixing valves in solar-heating systems. These products are also being installed in the hot water systems and on specific plumbing fixtures in old-age homes, clinics, hospitals and schools.
Quality thermostatic mixing valves protect people from scalding. They achieve this by ensuring a safe water temperature in the bath, shower, basin, bidet and kitchen sink. This is by accurately blending hot and cold water to keep temperature consistent even when the incoming water pressure or flow fluctuates.
Water from solar-water heating systems can reach temperatures that significantly exceed 65°C when they over perform. The ideal temperature of water at the point varies depending on the application but should never exceed 50°C. In baths, basins and showers, the standard water temperature of hot water is at least 38°C. To melt fats in the kitchen sink, hot water must be at least 45°C.
Brendan Reynolds, Executive Director of the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA), says that the use of these inferior thermostatic mixing valves places many lives at risk, especially the most vulnerable.
“Hot water from a solar water heater can reach temperatures of up to 90°C. A serious burn can occur within three seconds of being exposed to water that is 60°C in temperature. Hot water at 48°C can lead to a serious burn within 10 minutes. Many incapacitated people and children who cannot reach the tap quick enough or do not know how or are unable to close it have been burnt very severely in water of these temperatures. Bear in mind that children and the elderly also have thinner skin that burns quickly,” Reynolds says.
A quality thermostatic valve is manufactured to comply with the SABS 198:2012 standard. The standard enables plumbers and consumers to ascertain that the thermostatic mixing valve will perform as expected.
Reputable South African manufacturers and suppliers of this technology are very familiar with the standard. They also have an intricate understanding of the unique local conditions in which their products operate.
Many of the inferior thermostatic mixing valves that are being used in South Africa are being mass manufactured for an international market by companies in the East. These manufacturers are, therefore, not always aware of the strict standards that govern plumbing installations in the various markets that they supply.
A thermostatic valve that has been manufactured according to the SABS standard will allow the correct quantity of water through the hot water system. Importantly, it also reacts
swiftly in the event of a cold-water supply failure. When this occurs, it automatically shuts down and allows only a small amount of water through the pipe.
The influx of inferior mixing valves in the country over the years has been on the the back of a significant increase in demand for solar-water heating systems. These systems reduce water and energy bills, while also mitigating exposure to an extremely strained electricity system. Certainly, a growing awareness of the importance of sustainable living is also driving the uptake of the technology among large property developers and owners, as well as middle- and upper-income homeowners.
There has also been an alarming increase in the use of inferior thermostatic mixing valves in solar heating systems for large affordable housing developments. Inferior plumbing products, such as thermostatic mixing valves, are sold at a fraction of the cost of quality systems that comply with the relevant standards. They are especially appealing during challenging economic conditions as a short-sighted cost-cutting exercise. This has also been at the expense of local industry which supplies thermostatic valves that comply with strict standards.
Notably, the authorities have established localisation targets for solar water heater installations on many of these affordable housing projects. This is to stimulate the South African manufacturing industry so that it is also able to create more jobs. Yet, there are no such requirements for important plumbing components such as thermostatic mixing valves that are assembled or manufactured in the country according to the relevant quality standards.
For example, Advanced Valves, one of IOPSA’s members, manufactures a high-quality thermostatic mixing valve at its state-of-the-art factory in Johannesburg. The product’s very high local content compliments localisation targets that have been stipulated for other components of solar-water heating systems for affordable housing projects. The only component of the product that is not manufactured in the country by the company is the wax thermostatic element. Essentially the ‘brain’ of the system, it expands and contracts according to the temperature of the water. As temperature rises, the element expands closing the supply of hot water and releasing cold water into the system. When temperature decreases, it contracts to allow hot water into the pipe. The company imports its thermostatic element from France, which is considered a world leader in the field.
It remains a serious concern that burn injuries account for about 180 000 deaths every year throughout the world. “The highest burn-related deaths are in low- and middle-income countries. These burns are usually as a result of an accident at home. Scalding and flames are the most common causes of burn injuries in developed and developing countries, including in South Africa. To what extent poor plumbing contributes to this worrying state of affairs still needs to be investigated. Unlike other countries in the world, we do not keep such statistics. However, I am sure that, if we were to undertake such an investigation, it
would be a real eye-opener. This is considering the extent of substandard plumbing workmanship and the use of poor-quality plumbing products in the country,” Reynolds concludes.
The status of Certificates of compliance (CoC’s) for electric water heaters (geysers)
Since the change of SANS 10254 on 24 June 2022, there is no longer ANY requirement in any standard, regulation or act for a CoC to be issued for any installation or repair of a geyser. Claims to the contrary are incorrect. There are some municipalities which still require a CoC to be issued in terms of their by-laws, which remains a legal requirement irrespective of the changes to SANS 10254. The majority of these municipalities require a PIRB CoC. If, at some time in the future, there are any amendments to this, we will inform industry immediately.
Clients (e.g. property owners, developers, insurance companies, etc.), are well within their rights to require their service providers to issue a CoC. They may choose to use any form of CoC, from any individual or company, based on their own criteria to ensure quality, safety and accountability. In short, it is entirely voluntary.
Plumbers too have the right to either issue a CoC or not (depending on their client’s requirements). In this regard we strongly recommend that plumbers choose to continue issuing CoC’s as this brings professionalism, traceability and accountability to the industry. The selection of which form of CoC to use is important and is dealt with below.
The status of Certificates of compliance (CoC’s) for solar water heaters and heat pumps.
Although SABS has made it clear that it will be removing all requirements for CoC’s from all standards, for all industries in the near future. The current requirements to issue a PIRB CoC for these types of installations remains a requirement. If these standards are amended, we will notify you immediately.
The status of notifications of pre-existing non-compliances.
It is important to note that, in terms of the Consumer Protection Act, irrespective of any changes to standards, plumbers who are repairing or replacing water heaters MUST still notify the owners/users of any pre-existing non-compliances in writing. Nothing has changed in this regard. It is a very important requirement which allows the owner to make an informed decision whilst protecting the plumber from potential liability for work which they did not complete.
Selecting the right CoC for you.
In choosing which CoC to use, we recommend that plumbers and clients consider the following when making their decision;
In evaluating these criteria it is important to choose a CoC not because it is “easy” or “cheaper” but to choose a CoC which has real meaningful value and substance. A CoC which enhances professionalism, safety and upliftment of the industry.
COVID-19 outbreaks in high-rise buildings suggested the transmission route of fecal-aerosol-inhalation due to the involvement of viral aerosols in sewer stacks. The vertical transmission is likely due to the failure of water traps that allow viral aerosols to spread through sewer stacks. This process can be further facilitated by the chimney effect in vent stack, extract ventilation in bathrooms, or wind-induced air pressure fluctuations. To eliminate the risk of such vertical disease spread, the installation of protective devices is highly encouraged in high-rise buildings. Although the mechanism of vertical pathogen spread through drainage pipeline has been illustrated by tracer gas or microbial experiments and numerical modeling, more research is needed to support the update of regulatory and design standards for sewerage facilities.
During the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) viruses have been spread around the world causing respiratory symptoms, pneumonia, and deaths [1,2]. Many national governments limited social interactions and restrained economic activities to mitigate COVID-19 transmission, leading to isolation and hardship. The rapidly emerging new variants of concern, such as Delta and Omicron, create new challenges for countries even with a high vaccination rate .
The highly contagious SARS-CoV-2 exploited many routes to be transmitted among people, including human-to-human transmission under close contact by sprayed large droplets, or aerosol inhalation, and fomite transmission by touching contaminated surfaces with viral deposition . In addition, SARS-CoV-2 viruses are excreted into the stool of infected individuals and enter sewers after toilet flushing [5,6], as confirmed by the detection of SARS-CoV-2 gene markers in wastewater samples globally [7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13]. Many countries have implemented routine wastewater surveillance programs for the presence and concentration of SARS-CoV-2 in different sewer catchments or wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) [14, 15, 16]. Hence, the wastewater in sewers is also a potential transmission vehicle for SARS-CoV-2.
The possibility of fecal-oral transmission has been proposed and discussed widely [17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23], supported by the isolation of viable viruses from human feces . Apart from fecal shedding, other sources containing active SARS-CoV-2 viruses, including sputum, nasal mucus, blood, and saliva, may also enter the wastewater in sewers [25, 26, 27]. Some strains of coronavirus could preserve infectivity in bulk wastewater for a few days [28,29], and in sewers for hours , thus potentially making small sewage droplets as a transmission pathway of COVID-19.
High-rise apartment buildings are common residential arrangements in many densely populated cities worldwide. The flats/units of high-rise buildings are usually connected to the same drainage system. This makes it possible that the aerosolized viral particles generated from toilet flushing can be transmitted through sewer stacks, including linked sewage and ventilation pipes [31, 32, 33], causing infections distributed vertically in the building towers linked with the same sewer stacks. This paper reviewed the reported cases of vertical outbreaks of COVID-19 and studies related to the viral transmission mechanisms in sewer stacks of high-rise buildings, most of which are within the last two years. Based on this, some recommendations and research needs were proposed for preventing the transmission of COVID-19 in high-rise buildings.
The vertical outbreak came into the spotlight as a serious severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak that happened back in 2003 at a private residential apartment in Hong Kong, resulting in 42 deaths and 321 infected cases . For the current COVID-19 pandemic, 15 vertical outbreaks in residential buildings were reported in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China [35,36], and one outbreak in Seoul, South Korea  (Table 1). The infected cases were detected along the vertical line in the buildings connected by the same plumbing pipe. Moreover, most of the secondary infections resided on upper floors above the index case (Table 1). Additionally, the high risk of in-building infection is also a considerable concern for quarantine hotels and hospitals, where infected people frequently discharge viruses into the interconnected drainage system [38,39]. Therefore, it is likely that there have been more unrecognized vertical outbreaks as well.
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Commercial premises are significant consumers of municipal water. Despite comprising only 10% of municipalities’ total customer base, offices consume almost half of all water supplied by local government. In a water-scarce country such as South Africa, it is imperative that businesses continue to focus on reducing the water footprint of commercial premises. In doing so, they also save in water costs demonstrating that quality plumbing makes sound business sense. This is enough incentive for businesses to use water judiciously.
To help save water, many enterprising businesses are harnessing the wealth of knowledge that resides within the professional plumbing industry, spanning plumbers through to manufacturers and suppliers of innovative plumbing systems.
“Professional plumbers are at the cutting-edge of water efficiency. Considering the high demand for ‘green’ and ‘smart’ plumbing solutions in the country that is also being driven by the increasing costs of water and electricity in some cities, many plumbers have chosen to specialise in the field. They continue to keep pace with new plumbing technologies that are proving to be very effective in reducing water and energy use. These range from simple systems that have a large positive impact on water use through to sophisticated digital technologies that can even alert property owners of leaking hidden pipes on their premises so that they can take timely remedial action. This is not to mention the focus of manufacturers on designing and developing plumbing materials that last significantly longer to reduce potential leaks and maintenance costs for property owners, as well as the carbon footprint of their products. Qualified plumbers know when to recommend the use of these materials and how to correctly install them,” Brendan Reynolds, Executive Director of Institute of Plumbing of South Africa, says.
Addressing leaking plumbing is always a sound starting point when working towards reducing the water footprint of a commercial premises. Bear in mind that a leaking tap in the office kitchen or bathroom or toilet, for example, can waste up to 30l of water every hour. A qualified plumber will be able to correctly repair leaks and locate hidden faulty pipes on a commercial premises that can also run into exorbitant costs if left unchecked.
The next point of focus is usually the ablution facilities on a commercial premises. Toilet and urinal flushing, alone, use at least 43% and 20% of office-based water, respectively. When combined with washing in basins, ablution facilities can account for as much as 90% of total office water use.
Possible solutions include installing low flush toilets that only use six litres per flush. This is opposed to older toilets that use between 7,5l and as much as 13l per flush. In some instances, it may only be feasible to install water saving devices in existing cisterns as a
short- to medium-term solution. However, these interventions, alone, can save between one and three litres of water per flush.
Meanwhile, control devices can reduce urinal water use by as much as 70%. They may include timer controls that are set to match the hours that urinals are being used by staff. There are also more advanced solutions available to commercial property owners to help them reduce water demand. Qualified plumbers will be able to advise property owners as to which of these are the most suitable for their sites, as well as correctly install and maintain them. These include systems that use infra-red or ultrasound sensors that detect the presence of people and only then start supplying water. Others are triggered by variations in water pressure or flow when taps are opened in office ablution facilities.
Waterless urinals are also an option for some commercial premises. Such a system that replaces a conventional 3,7l per flush urinal can save about 150 000l of water a year. All waterless urinals work in a similar way. Urine is transferred via gravity from the basin through a seal in a cartridge and into a plumbing drain system. The seal prevents odours and sewer gasses from rising up the pipe and into the ablution facility.
Reynolds notes that a further advantage of these technologies is that they help to reduce the amount of wastewater that is released into the municipal system. This alleviates pressure on already-strained wastewater treatment works and mitigates pollution. As a result, the savings realised in reticulation and wastewater treatment costs can be spent more optimally on maintaining infrastructure and, in doing so, helping to attend to the serious sanitation challenges that the country is also facing.
Meanwhile, the office canteen can account for about 9% of total office water use. One of the contributors to high water use in the kitchen is inefficient taps. Taps used in these applications and ablution facilities for washing purposes can account for up to a third of office water use. Fitting outlet devices, such as sprays and aerators, to taps can reduce water use in these applications by as much as 80%. There are two such systems, namely atomisers and aerators. Atomisers disperse water into tiny droplets to wet larger surface areas with less water. Aerators, on the other hand, control the straightness and diameter of the streamflow and, in doing so, eliminating splash that wastes water. However, some commercial property owners prefer more sophisticated solutions to save water that is used in basins and sinks. Again, qualified plumbers will be able to provide important advice as to which of these will provide the best savings in water use. These systems include electronic sensor and timed turn-off push taps which, if properly installed and maintained by a professional plumber, prevent waste and flooding from taps that are left running.
After reducing water demand by implementing these interventions, many owners of commercial properties will augment water supply by harvesting rainwater. This “green plumbing” system has grown in popularity over the years and is, therefore, an important area of focus for many qualified plumbers in the country.
Rainwater harvesting collects and filters rainfall from the roof of buildings. Considering their size, many offices, large shopping centres, factories and warehouses provide ideal surfaces for harvesting rainwater. This water is stored in tanks and used for applications, such as flushing toilets, irrigation and cleaning, which accounts for about 1% of all office water use. A further spinoff of these systems is that they divert rainwater runoff and, in doing so, relieving pressure on severely strained municipal sewer systems. Rainwater harvesting remains an attractive proposition because of the system’s simple design and components, as well as low operating costs.
“The South African plumbing industry can play an even greater role in helping South Africa to reduce water demand as has been identified in the Department of Water and Sanitation’s Model Water Services Bylaws. Unfortunately, many municipalities are yet to implement them. Meanwhile, in the few jurisdictions where they have been put into effect, their enforcement has been lacking. This has led to an increase in the use of inferior plumbing products and substandard workmanship that has severely exacerbated our water and sanitation challenges,” Reynolds concludes.
The Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA) and the Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB) conducts the Plumbing National Survey annually.
* Please note that all articles are dated and content was valid at the time of publication.
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