In a bid to avoid water restrictions by 2014, urban water-demand management is said to be gaining momentum in Gauteng, but at a pace that one expert believes is inadequate to meet the province’s target of a 15% water consumption reduction in the next five years.
Willem Wegelin, of engineering consultancy WRP, says the province is already in deficit in terms of water consumption. “Water demand in the Gauteng area exceeds the capacity of the Vaal river system,” he cautions at the recent Afriwater’s Water Institute of South Africa conference.
In a recent presentation regard- ing the overview of water resources in South Africa, an official from the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs, acknowledged that there was a water scarcity in the economically important areas such as Gauteng, the Mpumalanga highveld, the Bushveld Igneous Complex and Lephalale coalfields.
Wegelin pointed out that some of the challenges facing the implementation of water-demand management include illegal irrigation, water control and leaking taps and valves.
“Even the approval for the construction of the Polihali dam, at Tlokoeng, in Mokhotlong, Lesotho, cannot bail us out because its earliest possible delivery date is 2018.”
Polihali dam is part of phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, valued at R7,3-billion. The feasibility study, which cost R56-million, has been completed and was funded by the governments of Lesotho and South Africa.
Wegelin added that demand management had benefits, but only if we started implementing this “today”. Demand management could create jobs. In one of its projects, WRP created about 400 job opportunities, such as meter readers and meter repairers.
“Automatic urinals are among the biggest causes of water wastage. “We have audited 50 schools and found 65 automatic urinals constantly using water. Automatic urinals were outlawed ten years ago, but they are still a source of water wastage.”
He stated that most areas in Gauteng had an intermittent water supply, which increased poor service as the system would not meet the normal demand or cope with leakages.
“The result is that people are reluctant to pay for services. Some only get water between two o’clock and four o’clock in the morning. “We have a maintenance backlog as our systems are no longer working. We must try to move away from intermittent supply.”
Wegelin argued that although most of the required infrastructure was in place, it was not opera- tional, for example, if the metering system was operational, no one read the meters.