War on Leaks

Michele du Plessis

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) contextualizes its intent on the War on Leaks (WoL) programme on July 10th as they are concerned about the situation.

“This programme was set in motion as a means of addressing the water losses country-wide which result from failing and ageing infrastructure. This matter came to a head after the Water Research Commission mandated Stellenbosch University to undertake research into water losses in the country. The study showed that the country loses up to 37% of potable water to losses due to failing infrastructure, ageing infrastructure and illegal connections,” Sputnik Ratau, DWS Director Media Liaison, Department Water and Sanitation said.

As a response to this dilemma, the then President put it to the DWS to find a solution to this challenge that could not be left unattended. The idea that was born out of that directive led to the DWS looking into recruiting out of school youths to take up training as Water Agents, Artisans and Plumbers. Thus far Phase 1 trainees who were enrolled onto the programme in 2015 have successfully completed the following training:  New Venture Creation (Water Agents and Artisans); Water Conservation and Water Demand Management (Water Agents and Artisans); Water Agent Skills Program (for Water Agents) and Institutional Training (Artisans.

This matter is due to competing for similar programmes within government and a lack of qualified mentors within some of the targeted municipalities. This situation has impacted on the capacity of municipalities to absorb the trainees for workplace training.

But where does this leave Sabie with all the problems the town is currently experiencing? On the WhatsApp Service Group, we constantly read about water running down Ford, Simmons or any other street, sewerage streaming down in Hofmeyer Circle or the newly built RDP houses and a small sprouting fountain next to the museum that has been leaking for weeks.

“DWS Minister Gugile Nkwinti has found that the programme is important and can assist in stemming the tide of water losses. As such, he has suggested that it fall within the realm of the National Water Resources Infrastructure Branch, which is now named Infrastructure Build, Operate and Maintenance. This will allow for funding to be availed as a part of the branch’s responsibility of maintaining infrastructure for the good of the country,” according to the media statement.

“The SCCT is also involved with the water situation in Simile and Mount Anderson which is in a mess. Initially, when the pipeline was laid, the pipe broke out of the ground due to the wrong spec of material and not being properly laid. When the contractor came in to assist in fixing the pipeline, the workers were barefoot and with no protective clothing, which could result in TCLM being sued if there is an accident,” Captain Rees said.

“As the DWS we are optimistic that a significant number of trainees from the first intake will be able to complete their training and in time. This effort is meant to bring comfort not just to the trainees but to those municipalities that would need to utilise the skills developed through the programme,” Sputnik Ratau said.

Until such expertise reaches the Thaba Chweu Municipality, Sabie will continue to experience impromptu water fountains, leaking fire hydrants and streams of water and/or sewerage running down the streets…

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