Across Gauteng’s 10 municipalities, an average of 26% of drinkable water is lost due to leaking pipes, wasteful practices and ailing infrastructure. This concerning statistic, coupled with the further stress that drought and climate change is adding to South Africa’s water situation, has prompted Gauteng to launch the #SaveWater campaign.
It forms part of an aggressive government drive to encourage long-term behavioural change in how municipalities, public institutions and members of the public use this scarce resource, particularly in light of the poor rains and soaring temperatures that much of the country is experiencing.
The water-saving campaign was launched by Gauteng MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and Human Settlements Jacob Mamabolo last month, with the backing of the Gauteng Water and Sanitation Forum.
#SaveWater is a six-pillar, mass communication campaign to educate Gauteng communities about saving water and making small but significant changes to their daily habits to ensure there is enough water for current and future generations. This includes:
Intensifying the detection and repair of water leaks at municipal level; Encouraging residents to harvest rainwater in tanks; Upgrading water-pumping capacity and infrastructure;
Ensuring an uninterrupted water supply to essential services facilities like hospitals;
Bringing Eskom on board to ensure that Rand Water’s pumping facilities are not affected by power outages or load shedding; and
Educating communities on how to use water efficiently and sparingly.
The MEC and his team have embarked on a province-wide blitz to observe the situation on the ground first-hand and to hand out pamphlets on proper water use.
They were shocked at what they found during a recent walkabout in the Emfuleni Local Municipality, one of the three local councils making up the Sedibeng District Municipality in Vanderbijlpark. “There were massive water leakages. “In one case, it was so bad that residents of a student complex had to put down planks and bricks to get in and out of their homes,” said Mamabolo.
“We also witnessed huge inflows of water pollution into the Vaal river system, of which Emfuleni is a big polluter.
“The problem there is poor infrastructure and they need to install new water pipes. But we have also been going door to door, seeking to conscientise people about how to save water – particularly, how to harvest rainwater.”
This forms a major part of the #SaveWater campaign: encouraging Gauteng residents to invest in a rainwater harvesting system, such as a JoJo tank, for their households.
These tanks catch rainwater and store it for non-potable (non-drinkable) household uses, such as watering the garden, flushing toilets, washing clothes and cars, and topping up swimming pools.
The province is also urging public institutions such as schools, clinics, police stations and libraries to install these tanks.
Mamabolo emphasised that #SaveWater is not a once-off campaign to address the current water scarcity, but is part of a long-term vision to instil water-wise habits in all levels of society.
“Historically in South Africa, people have not fully understood the importance of using water wisely,” he explained.
“The need to conserve water hasn’t really been brought to people’s attention – we’ve been behaving like a country with lots of water. But we need to start appreciating water as a scarce resource and a source of life because the realities are now catching up with us. So the public needs to be educated and sensitised about the water problem.”
Global climate change and the El Niño phenomenon, which are resulting in rising global temperatures, are compounding and contributing to the current scorching, drought-like conditions over much of the country.
Evaporation from the vast surface of the Vaal Dam, the source of Gauteng’s tap water, is not helping matters.
Mamabolo also said Gauteng’s water infrastructure was not originally designed with large populations in mind and did not anticipate the influx of hundreds of thousands of people