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

Pressure is building on local government

Ahead of the elections, there were clear signs that national politicians were losing patience with shenanigans at local level that were provoking uproar in the streets and condemnation across the country. Pravin Gordhan, Minister of Finance announced in his February budget speech that some of the money that goes to local government for service provision would again be channelled through national departments.

Read more: Pressure is building on local government

The sun must set on local governments’ sunset clause

Although the election date had not been set when I wrote this column, by the time that it appears, the elections will be upon us. So a brief but serious word is in order about the troubles that we face in the water business.

Read more: The sun must set on local governments’ sunset clause

Fire protection in the silly season

Before getting into water and engineering, I was an occasional journalist. Never fulltime, mind you. When the old Rand Daily Mail offered me occasional shifts to try my hand, it seemed more sensible than signing a three-year cadetship contract with the Argus group. And that semi-freelance perspective was useful because you quickly learnt what editors wanted.

One December back in the 70s, I suggested a story about how the holiday road death toll was actually lower than the average monthly rate for the rest of the year. I was rudely told to carry on phoning police stations for the latest crash news.

Read more: Fire protection in the silly season

Learning from blocked drains in dry countries

At the end of last year, I had the privilege of being first to have dinner on the main straight of the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 track. Well, me and 900 others. But it was quite special, for the motor racing enthusiasts, at least.

We were lucky for other reasons. Only 36 hours later, Abu Dhabi had its first rain of the year. Pula! It came down in buckets. I was more excited by the downpour than the race track – I am after all a water engineer, not a padmaker. And it was serious rain. An early casualty drowned after his car was swept off the road by a torrent of stormwater.

Read more: Learning from blocked drains in dry countries

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