The War on Leaks

The War On Leaks7 June, 2017 - South African water supplies are under extreme stress, with the current drought placing an even higher strain on our limited resources. According to the 2030 Water Resources Group (1) the country will face a shortfall of 17% between supply and demand by 2030. Efforts at water conservation are more important than ever. Even with individuals and businesses taking steps to reduce usage there is another major issue that must be addressed – water leakages.

According to figures released last year by the Minister of Water Affairs, Nomvula Mokonyane, the country loses just over R7-billion each year due to leaking taps and pipes. The same figures revealed that a staggering 25% of South Africa’s water is lost as a result of leakages. These leaks and the resultant shortage of water limits the development of towns and affects the wellbeing of individuals living in these areas. Water leakages are now being targeted by the national planning commission, as fixing them is one of the quickest and most cost-effective ways of reducing water loss. 

Other areas of concern in the battle to conserve water include a lack of skilled staff, an ageing infrastructure ( with some municipal pipes being over a century old ), a lack of information, and tariffs not reflecting the full costs of delivering water. It has been proven that the average Municipality loses up to 30% of their water from the abstraction point to the point of delivery. By reducing these losses municipalities will be able to increase water revenue.

With 30% of towns in South Africa facing water shortages and losing a large amount of their available water through leakages, it became clear that these issues must be tackled head on. In response to these challenges, Kevin Treffry-Goatley, founder and director of The Water Academy, developed a training initiative that is now being integrated into TWA Learnerships. This problem-specific module is named: “Manage Water Losses and Water Quality in a Reticulation System” (Module number M310). The module teaches and empowers Technical Managers, Supervisors and Water Technicians to manage and supply the available water more efficiently and to reduce water losses expediently and effectively. The Water Academy also provides a monitoring service whereby these teams are assisted in improving the provision of water to their towns and improving their Blue Drop Score.

The M310 module is based on three SAQA registered Unit Standards, namely:

1. Apply Water Loss Control Principles

2. Demonstrate knowledge of leak detection programmes

3. Maintain Water Quality in Water Supply Reticulation Systems.

Together, these three Unit Standards form part of the qualification “National Certificate: Water and Waste Water Reticulation Process. NQF 4 & 5”.

So how are Learners applying this module in the field? Between training interventions the Learners are given specific assignments to collect data from their own Municipalities. The Water Academy then assists them in producing a Management Strategy as well as an Implementation Strategy related to the specific infrastructure at their sites. Feedback from the learners who have undertaken this educational module is positive. The current group of 6 Learners from a Local Municipality in the Eastern Cape of South Africa are enrolled in this The Water Academy learnership through the Resolve Group of Ernst and Young Advisory Services. The Learners are hugely impressed. They have commented that they “now know exactly how to tackle the site-specific problems in their Municipality’s water supply systems” and are “confident that the results will be spectacular”.

This module was first developed by Kevin in 2014/15 and is continuously updated to suit current and local situations. The Water Academy is the only institution in the Water Industry that provides this particular training and support service. It is vital that we manage our water resources responsibly, not only for ourselves but also for future generations. When we minimise leaks we unburden strained financial and natural resources and more clean water is available to grow the population and the economy.

Sources: TWA statistics,,,
(1) ) The Water Resource Group is an international public-private-civil society collaboration to facilitate dialogue and encourage reforms and actions to close the gap between water demand and supply by the year 2030