500 million litres of drinking water wasted

Approximately 500 million litres of drinking water has gone to waste in Potchefstroom over the past year because of a major leak in one of the main water pipes.

One of the main municipal water pipes has been spewing out potable water on a farm to the north of the city. It seems as if this 600 mm pipe connects the waterworks to a reservoir near Tuscany Ridge


The pipe crosses a farm that belongs to the NWU and, according to the farmer who currently rents the land, the municipality has been aware of the leak for quite some time.

The municipality has dug a 2×5-metre hole to get to the pipe but, since it hasn’t been fixed, the hole has filled up with water. The water is so clean that the pipe can clearly be seen through it.

The water leaking from the pipe has already formed a little river that constantly flows from the hole towards the Mooi River near the Potchefstroom Dam.

Maryke van Heerden from the Herald had a swim in the pool of water.

Maryke van Heerden from the Herald had a swim in the pool of water.

According to a farm worker living on the property, the pipe has been leaking for the past four years. But Willie Maphosa, a spokesperson for the J.B. Marks Municipality, argues that the leak has only been there for about a year.

The farmer estimates that the volume of water leaking from the pipe must be in the region of 50 000 litres per hour.
If one calculates the volume of water that has already leaked out of the pipe, it amounts to about 500 million litres in the past year – nearly enough to last the entire Cape Town for a whole day.

Maphosa says that, according to the department of technical services, there are two pipes involved in this case – 350 mm and 400 mm in diameter.

‘The two pipelines are part of our underground asbestos network. The asbestos pipes are no longer available in the market since the industry has switched to using UPVC (plastic) pipes. These parts are, therefore, difficult to obtain,’ Maphosa says.

He says the municipality had already tried to fix the pipe. It has ordered the connector fittings that join asbestos pipes to the UPVC but only the smaller ones were immediately available. The municipality used cascade clamps as a stop-gap measure for the 400 mm pipe but they came loose and the water started leaking again.

He says they are still waiting for the right parts to be able to fix the pipe properly.

‘The real problem behind these frequent burst pipes is that the asbestos underground infrastructure network is no longer in sync with the current market trends. The permanent solution would be to replace the whole network with the UPVC system. This would require a massive resource outlay and the municipality would have to consider it over a multi-year budgeting process.’

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