We are running out of water

Here's what you can do to save

23 June 2019 | Disasters

Windhoek • Elvira Hattingh

The date for dams supplying Windhoek to run dry has now advanced with between two and three weeks. The reason for this is that Windhoekers have not achieved water saving targets that were already set at the beginning of the year.

In actual fact, in the week of 3 to 10 June, 5% more water was used than allowed in the municipal water management plan in a category D situation.

Dieter Tolke, a technical engineer for water in the municipality's in­frastructure, water and technical services division, said this information was released during a meeting with NamWater.

More than half of all water supplied to Windhoek is for household use, which means savings here can have a huge impact. Tolke says by installing water-saving equipment such as flow regulators in taps, will not only halve your water use, you can recover your costs in as little as three months.

He says that according to municipal building regulations, shower heads and taps (for sanitation purposes) may not allow more than 10 litres through per minute, while toilets should not discharge more than 6 litres per flush.

Tolke says at the moment there are even more efficient taps available than those prescribed in the regulations. Actually, you can buy shower heads that allow as little as 8 litres through per minute, while kitchen taps can regulate flow at 6 litres and bathroom taps at 4 litres per minute.

“For public toilets there are taps that only allow water spray – around 1.5 ­litres per minute. There are also ­public toilets available that flush a maximum of 4 litres at a time.” Tolke says record keeping of domestic water use is essential, especially since the municipality will not give any discount for water leaks as from 1 July. “Water management is currently a requirement. That means you should read your water meter daily or weekly to make sure you use acceptable ­levels.”

Many challenges

Tolke says there are challenges with the current water saving campaign. This includes a lack of political will from government and that many municipal officials for example, are no longer willing to cut off water of illegal consumers.

“The municipality already has a support programme for the largest water users, but technicians do not want to implement it without the approval of municipal management structures, the city council and politicians. We have seen in the past that if approval was not given, there is interference,” Tolke says.

The support programme is based on the existing water programme, which means that high water users are helped by first setting up a water quota for them. Thereafter an electronic water management system is installed, for which the consumer pays and which is programmed to supply water only at certain times of the day until necessary elements are put in place to make sure water quotas are met.

“At the same time, building regulations to ensure that only the most water-efficient equipment is used, have not been properly enforced so far. There is also a lack of public sector support, with several government institutions and buildings that remain the largest consumers. This includes schools like HTS and Augustinium, but also Government Office Park.

“Certain ministries are not doing their bit and problems with inefficient water use at these institutions continue unabated.”

Tolke says these issues need to be addressed for additional water savings­ to reach the 15% target. Another issue is government's tender process, as the municipality has been running without permanent contractors for more than a year. In the past these contractors helped with maintenance and repairs on water and sewerage infrastructure. “At the moment we have a backlog. This means municipal workers have a lot more work and cannot get to every­thing quickly, which causes further water losses. ”