THE 2021 South African IWA Water Loss Specialist Group Regional Summit was held recently, with almost 200 delegates from around South Africa in attendance, as well as a number of international delegates.
This event, held on 1 and 2 September, identified and discussed key water loss management issues facing South Africa and surrounding countries. It has been presented annually since 1997 by Ronnie Mckenzie, who recently served as the Chairman of the IWA Water Loss Specialist Group.
Water loss in South Africa from potable water distribution systems has risen from around 37% in 2010 to more than 41% in 2016, which is the last year from which official water loss figures are currently available.
“This is a concern as the losses show no signs of stabilizing and appears to be growing worse rather than better,” said Jay Bhagwan from the Water Research Commission (WRC), in his opening address.
Bhagwan, who has been working in the water and wastewater fields for over 30 years, is currently the Executive Manager for water and wastewater in the domestic, mining and industrial sectors at the WRC. He presented details of WRC initiatives and shared details of user-guides and software to assist water managers in addressing their leakage and water loss issues.
Bambos Charalambous, past chairperson of the IWA WLSG and the IWA Intermittent Supply Specialist Group highlighted the dangers of intermittent supply, arguing that it lead to greater losses and possible disease outbreaks if the water supply gets contaminated with polluted groundwater during the zero pressure periods.
“Many water suppliers in South Africa are introducing intermittent supply as a means of ‘reducing water losses’ at night especially in areas where they are not receiving payment for water, and in some cases, they are cutting off whole towns to try and encourage payment. This practice is the worst thing that can happen,” he warned.
Many towns and cities around the world are facing their own ‘Day-Zero’ in cases where severe droughts are occurring. Delegates heard how Cape Town is probably one of the best examples in the world where a major city (population around four million) has managed to steer itself through the worst drought in over 200 years, avoiding a day zero.
Peter Flower, recently retired director of the City of Cape Town’s Water and Sanitation Department, who was in charge of the Cape Town water crisis explained what works and what does not work when a city faces the real threat of running dry.
“Cape Town is the only major city in the world that has managed to reduce its water use by half without resorting to intermittent supply and the lessons learned should be of great interest to any city facing water supply issues,” Flower said.
Stuart Hamilton, Head of NRW Development for Miya Water and Chairperson of the IWA WLSG, discussed the current status of leakage control by addressing some of the latest techniques on leak detection, which are being offered around the globe.
He said many of the options presented were beneficial to the region, and a great emphasis was placed on investing in what will bring the best results regardless of budget, and that there are always solutions to find leakages. “Water loss will not go away in our lifetime, and when you do start, it is a lifelong programme of continuous work,” Hamilton said.
Several up-and-coming water professionals from various municipalities presented details of what they are doing in their own supply systems to reduce water losses.
Zubair Sulaiman from Drakenstein Municipality shared their efforts to reign in water losses: Unathi Noludwe from Cape Town discussed leak detection in the city; and Ivy Maisela concentrated on Cape Town’s pressure management programme. Samanta Stelli from Rand Water gave an overview of the water situation in South Africa.
This year’s two-day event, which is the first such event jointly organised by the SAICE Academy, was supported by various organisations including, IWA WLSG, WISA, IMESA, WRC, Rockblue, and WRP.