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Perhaps why service delivery fails?

Other than the plumbing industry, the rest fails to have a firm grasp of the responsible role of the plumber.

“While the plumbing industry and health officials tout the critical role of the plumber and accepted plumbing science as being the first line of defence in creating healthy communities, there is an unresolved dissonance felt by some plumbers in response to industry leaders who often promote technology without demonstrating an appreciation for the underlying plumbing principles that govern most plumbing applications and system implementations.”

These words were stated by the chair of the Water breakaway session in his summation of the two-day discussion at the World Plumbing Conference held in Cape Town recently. It is assumed — incorrectly — by government and quasi-government operations, municipalities and others, that plumbing is regulated and, therefore, there is no need to concern themselves with plumbing, plumbers and plumbing design.

How out of touch and how wrong these people are to make this assumption, when most of the time they are the perpetrators of unqualified people being allowed to do plumbing work. At the same time, they pay scant attention to standards and regulations, most of which are compulsory. Notwithstanding the SABS mess that jeopardised the livelihood of compliant companies and that still continues to be tardy in handling issues, we have a regulating authority that is incapable of controlling the people who work in the plumbing industry. Because of this, less or non-compliant companies climb the bandwagon with inferior products.

Yes, I am generalising, but there is no escaping the fact that our qualified trade does not receive the respect that it deserves, or even the hearing that it should be given at these levels of legislation, standards and enforcement.

Respect, of course, is earned, and this is achieved by professional plumbers who are qualified as per the Skills Development Act and present themselves as knowledgeable people who have undertaken three to four years of training — they stand by their professionalism.

Until these government departments and quasi-government entities start engaging and working with the grass roots trade, they will continue to believe that plumbing does not merit their consideration. This is an attitude that needs to change. If the grass roots continue to be ignored, throwing millions of rands at a War on Leaks Programme that is conducted without proper training and tooling, we will lose money faster than water. Band-aiding water savings, such as is happening now, is wasteful and ineffective.

Engaging with official bodies, such as the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA) and the Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB), would reap greater benefits in the campaign to save water than anything that government could do using taxpayers’ money.

The good innovations that the Water Research Commission promotes would gain far more traction if IOPSA and PIRB were better engaged. The South African Local Government Association and their members would be seen to genuinely be delivering water and sanitation, rather than these myriad of band-aid projects.

They need to develop not only an appreciation for plumbing principles that govern plumbing applications and system implementations, but also engage, not pay lip service, or be condescending towards plumbers. Working together with industry, the results would be of benefit to all.


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