First Look Blog

Articles written by the First Look team.


Invest in Your Schools' Water Infrastructure

Published by Ken Nunes on 28/10/2018

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Suntricity has over the last 24-months, reported extensively on the rising cost of Water in Johannesburg, which, with the 2018/2019 20,50% increase, stands at R61.50 per KL (including VAT).

Whilst this may seem excessive, I am of the opinion that the increases are TOTALLY JUSTIFIED, and could (at least should) help focus our schools’ Administrators on Water Efficiency, as a matter of priority.

Indeed, schools all over South Africa are actively implementing Electricity Efficiency Programmes, through the installation of Efficiency Measures such as: Digital Controllers, LED Lamp replacement of archaic fluorescent lamp, Solar PV, etc. With annual Water Costs now HIGHER than Electricity Costs in most schools, it seems a logical step for schools to give equal importance to Water Efficiency and Water Savings, where payback on investments is 1 to 3 years, as opposed to 4 to 7 years on Electricity Saving investments.

This however, raises another interesting dilemma for Schools Administrators.

Schools are responsible for “general maintenance” of the buildings' water installation, which would include things like: Toilet Cisterns, Taps, General Leaks, etc, and are provided with a totally inadequate  budget by the GDE for the purpose - this “Maintenance Allocation” is 12% of the total budget received from the Department of Education, resulting in a maintenance budget of approximately R50,000.00 per annum, intended to cover ALL MAINTENANCE WORKS, including Electricity & Water maintenance.

Schools are NOT however, responsible for INFRASTRUCTURE MAINTENANCE, which would include underground pipes, major toilet refurbishment, etc. The thin line between these two responsibilities is 50 Shades of Brown and the process to access potentially available funding, sufficiently vague to discourage all Saints. Waiting for the DPW, DBA, GDE or whichever Public Entity is responsible for the ageing infrastructure of a 40-year old school, could well be considered equal to the quest of finding the Holy Grail.

So…

  • Are schools to wait for this investment from the Authorities, which reduces monthly Municipal costs, or do they undertake the investment themselves?
  • Would it be somehow possible for the Authorities to grant schools over a certain age, an annual budget to execute these important works?

And while this is being debated, Water increases continue, which schools are of course obligated to pay.

Obviously conclusion? 

Schools' SGB’s must assume the responsibility…up to a certain point…they must however:

  • Take every and all efficiency measures to reduce water consumption.
  • Obsessively monitor and track monthly costs, in order to understand consumption variations.
  • Approach the Department, through their IDSO and Deputy Directors for assistance, when necessary.
  • Use as much expertise as is available, to at least be seen do be taking meaningful action to reduce water cost.

The list of Things to Do is endless...however...Doing nothing is for sure, no longer an option!!!