Rotting from the outside in

By Andrew (‘Andy’) Camphausen

While driving from one place to another due to the nature of my profession, I have started noticing the putrid smell of rotting and rotten water on the outskirts of many towns and cities.

Stagnant water can be attributed to many circumstances, including flash floods, failing infrastructure, minimal maintenance, and infrastructure challenges upstream of the water, to name but a few.

Many water-related diseases are brought about by stagnant water, but the single most prevalent of these in South Africa is malaria. We are heading into summer; it is also hotter this year and will most probably get worse. As all life depends on water for its survival, pools of water or non-flowing streams can be frequented by a myriad of animals. These animals have natural parasites attached to them that sometimes fall into the stagnant water, thus assisting mosquito larvae to thrive, since they now have a source of food.

As stagnant pools of water are usually found near to humans due to the various reasons mentioned, the largest danger of the spread of diseases are derived from mosquitoes reaching adulthood in these pools of water.

Obviously, we need to combat this threat proactively by being mindful of these dangers and by looking at the challenges upstream of the source of danger.

Here are a few things that we can do to minimise the spread of deadly diseases in our rural and urban societies:

  • If you were to be called out to unblock a drain for example, it would be prudent to take a walk around the property to identify possible dangers or challenges that contribute to stagnant water. This could be in the form of a visible leaking pipe or leaking outside tap. This problem should be brought to the attention of the homeowner, thus adding value to your business by selling add-on services.
  • Only use approved fittings. Suppliers are not required by law to sell plumbing fittings that comply with the regulations, but both installer and user are liable if the fittings fail to comply. Insist that your suppliers confirm that fittings are of an appropriate quality and standard. Both in this country and in neighbouring countries, the SABS mark of approval is the minimum prerequisite.
  • Most mixers contain flow-restricted aerators in the outlet. It is important that the outlets are kept clean by installing in-line strainers and ball lever valves on the incoming water line. This will protect the integrity of the mixers and lessen the danger of product-related malfunction, which can lead to water stagnation downstream.
  • Submerged inlets to baths or handbasins are considered a risk and must be protected by the use of a double check valve on the hot and cold-water inlets.
  • Insulate pipework in exposed places, for example under the eaves of buildings or in the ceilings of roofs.
  • On regularly exposed cistern driven toilets, install a servicing ball lever or screw lever valve on the inlet of the cistern, thereby protecting the integrity and the maintenance of the system.
  • Install low-flow or flushing toilet cisterns or mechanisms.

Other examples of the prevention of stagnant water in domestic water related systems exist, but these are the most important.

What are you doing to contribute positively to the drought and the prevention of stagnant water related diseases?

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