Stemming the leaks

By Andrew “Andy” Camphausen

The project kicked off with us meeting with the company’s corporate social responsibility manager and SHE representative, where we decided to concentrate on six schools put forward by the Mpumalanga Department of Education as a pilot project.

We visited the various schools in the town, which forms part of the eMalahleni Local Municipality. We met the principals and performed a comprehensive audit of the sanitaryware at the schools.

We were shocked at what we discovered. Every school had leaking toilets and taps; sanitaryware that had been stolen; an average of R13 000 monthly water bills per school; continuously running urinal and flushing mechanisms; almost non‑existent drinking fountains in school yards; and flooding at some schools. In one of the schools, only toilets remained — everything else had been stolen.

We reported our findings to the company, to which they were dismayed. The company then employed the services of a mechanical engineering company to locate the leaks at each school. This was done by using GPS‑activated water data loggers set to nightly logging from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. The results were shocking. One school was using more than 20m3 of water per hour. This consumption could have been due to a massive leak in the ground, toilets leaking or flushing continuously, or a combination of both. To put this into perspective, an average three‑bedroomed residential household uses about 30m3/kilolitres a month. This school had been using that amount an hour!

After the baseline was attained, a plumber was employed to repair the leaks at the schools. Community members were employed to assist with the installations and are being thoroughly trained to become plumbers themselves. This initiative forms part of the War on Leaks Programme of the Department of Water and Sanitation.

This pilot project is deemed a success, as all the groundwork has been done by the various role players. The toilets at the remaining 14 schools will be repaired soon.

This demonstrates that if we all take a little care with initiatives like this we can make a difference in society.

A school event was held to recognise the assistance given.

Women community plumbers repair a leaking cistern.

A community plumber repairs a leaking tap.


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