Don’t do it like the Brazilians!

By: Mike Muller

Let’s start with the bad news: I am going to be writing about ways to reduce water use for some time to come. Good rains in November and full dams notwithstanding, Gauteng will be at risk of shortages for the next few years at least. The good news is that there is no shortage of actions that we can take to decrease the risks. And when I say “we”, that means everybody from shack dwellers and suburban householders, to municipal managers and ministers.

Read more: Don’t do it like the Brazilians!

Rand Water learns the hard way

This month it is not difficult to choose a topic to write about – Gauteng’s water crisis cannot be ignored. It was actually a rather small crisis. Only a handful of suburbs were affected in each of the province’s three metros. A REAL crisis will affect the entire province. However, this one was bad enough, and showed just how hard it is to manage a water shortage across a large urban area (that’s what Gauteng is, really, give or take a few hills in the Magaliesberg and Suikerbosrand).

Read more: Rand Water learns the hard way

An important message from government : fix that leak – please!

Last month I attended one of the more important events on the South African water calendar – second only to PlumbDrain of course – the annual water leaks ‘summit’. Of course, it was ignored by the country’s journalists, especially on the day that MPs in red boiler suits were letting off steam in Parliament. 

Read more: An important message from government : fix that leak – please!

Helping South Africans to help themselves

One of the tragedies of today’s South Africa is the number of our children who get sick and even die because of the failures of public authorities. That is what has happened in places like Bloemhof and Madibeng in North West, Delmas and Carolina in Mpumalanga, where municipalities have simply failed to do the basics needed to supply safe water to their communities. Those basics are not particularly difficult. Treating water for a small town is not much more complicated than running a pool in a suburban home. Distribution of water to existing settlements often requires just simple plumbing skills. 

Read more: Helping South Africans to help themselves

How to save water – learning from Australia

Taking a page from Australia’s water-saving techniques and experiences

I have two management maxims. The first, which I have discussed in Plumbing Africa before, is to “panic at the right time”. This is why I am talking loudly at present about the dangerous delays in the Lesotho Highlands Water Scheme Phase 2. We need it by 2018 to ensure that Gauteng is able to cope if we are hit by a severe drought.

Read more: How to save water – learning from Australia

Preserve us from know-it-alls

Because we went to school (once, long ago) many of us believe that we know how to teach. Water and plumbing have the same problem. Because people have taps at home and sometimes see a river, they think they understand where water comes from.

I recently debated a clever environmentalist based in Cape Town who believes that dams are bad and dangerous. He had read on the internet about a dam that failed in China 40 years ago and killed lots of people. What actually happened was that a typhoon dropped more rain on the hills of Henan in a day than South Africa would see in two years. So what killed people was a monster flood, not a dam.

Read more: Preserve us from know-it-alls

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