Project Lungisa saving Grabouw millions of litres of water

Cape Town, 29 June 2022 – A water-saving initiative between the Theewaterskloof Municipality and Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA) is making a significant dent in water wastage in Grabouw, situated close to the Theewaterskloof dam, the largest dam in the Western Cape Water Supply System (WCWSS).

As part of Project Lungisa, nine people from the community were identified and underwent intensive theoretical and practical training in plumbing before being deployed to repair leaks in the informal settlement areas in Grabouw. This is a structured and ongoing water leaks repair and maintenance programme run under the supervision of the municipality.

Good winter rains have been a boon to dams supplying Cape Town and surrounding areas, but water preservation measures are still key to ensuring sustainability for the region.

CCBSA’s Elgin plant which produces Appletiser, is located in Grabouw, where there are more than 5,000 informal structures, with a vast semi-informal water network, which includes taps and toilets used by the public.

According to figures released on 27 June by the City of Cape Town, the average capacity of the six major dams suppling the greater City of Cape Town and surrounds had risen from 64.3% to 72.2% on the back of good recent rainfall.

The Theewaterskloof Dam near Grabouw, by far the largest dam in the Cape Town catchment area with a total capacity of 480,188 million litres, is currently 74.3% full, up from 66.8% at the beginning of June. During the height of the drought which struck the Western Cape five years ago, the dam was sitting at 29% capacity during the same week in 2017.

Project Lungisa is part of a broader and sustainable Water Replenish Programme being run by CCBSA in numerous communities around the country. In 2021, a total of 690 million litres of water was replenished through CCBSA’s water access and watershed restoration projects.

The nine Project Lungisa members in Grabouw graduated from the programme on Tuesday 28 June and are now ready to start and run their own plumbing repair businesses, servicing the local community and surrounding areas.

Theewaterkloof Municipality representative Joanna Visagie said: “Water losses occur largely as a result of ageing water network infrastructure, illegal connections, and vandalism to facilities and infrastructure.

“It is important that we have an active programme to address incidents of leaks when they occur to ensure that water wastage is limited. Project Lungisa helps us achieve that and this is such an important initiative which we have embarked on with CCBSA.”

The project forms part of the municipality’s Expanded Public Works programme and Visagie said the project was one of the first where there has been a tangible transfer of skills training as well as the equipment required to become self-sustaining.

“The graduates have been exposed and been tested in a real-life environment and their newfound skills have been put to good use to address infrastructure challenges related to water.”

She said that local residents and businesses will never forget the state of the Theewaterskloof dam at the end of the 2017 summer season when the dam level was at only 12.9%, with the last 10% basically unusable.

Nozicelo Ngcobo, CCBSA’s Director for Public Affairs Communications and Sustainability, said water preservation was extremely high on the company’s list of priorities, given the fact that South Africa is a largely water-stressed country.

“We are seeing the unfolding situation in Nelson Mandela Bay where CCBSA is actively involved in assisting distressed communities and working alongside local government to provide relief,” she said.

“But of even greater importance is to be proactive to prevent the unnecessary loss of water and to properly manage this precious resource to ensure sustainability. Project Lungisa is an important weapon in this fight.”

Ngcobo added that the empowerment and employment of members of the community, particularly youth, was important to CCBSA.

“Economic inclusion is a major focal area for CCBSA, particularly for youth and women, and through Project Lungisa we have also sought to provide members of the community with key skills,” Ngcobo said. “There has been a significant financial investment made into this skills training project, while each individual was also provided with a plumbing toolbox and personal protective wear.”

Visagie added: “In a country with a high unemployment rate and a huge skills shortage, this is a very significant investment to empower people to be employable and also equipped to run their own enterprises.”

Ngcobo said: “This project will help stop leaks and prevent the pooling of stagnant water which poses health risks. We hope to see an improvement to the quality of life of residents while at the same time educating communities about water conservation.”

Project Lungisa graduate Thandeka Honono said: “I am grateful to be a part of this programme that was done by CCBSA. Now I am able to fix things with my hands and the knowledge I have gained from the training. I can fix any leaks anywhere I find, even at home. I am very grateful. I will use the certificate to apply for a job and get the opportunity to provide for my kids.” 

 Fellow programme graduate Themba Mejini said: “I just want to thank Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa for taking me into the Project Lungisa programme. Now I’ve got the certificate which I am going to use to apply for opportunities. I appreciate the support of CCBSA. Thank you very much.” 

Up to 37% of potable water in South Africa goes to waste due to failing systems, ageing infrastructure, illegal connections, and vandalism, with Government estimated to lose approximately R7 billion annually due to water losses.

“At CCBSA, our aim is to contribute meaningfully to people and the planet by improving the wellbeing of the communities in which we operate,” she concluded.

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