Mitigating the impact of water shortages: Practical advice for homeowners

Mitigating the impact of water shortages: Practical advice for homeowners
Lizette Erasmus, manager of Insurance Expertise at IntegriSure Brokers

South Africa has faced increasing instances of water shortages and extended interruptions, significantly impacting households and communities. Johannesburg and the surrounding areas are now bracing for a challenging period of water disruptions, with maintenance and infrastructure upgrades compounding the issue.

Rand Water will conduct extensive maintenance from June 22 to July 29, 2024, to enhance the reliability and efficiency of its infrastructure. This maintenance will impact Johannesburg Water’s systems, affecting major urban areas including Ekurhuleni, Govan Mbeki, Johannesburg, Lesedi, Madibeng, Mogale City, Merafong City, Pretoria, Rand West City, Rustenburg, Thembisile Hani, and Victor Khanye municipalities.

“While maintenance is necessary and welcomed to prevent larger water shortage issues in the future, it presents significant challenges for residents,” says Lizette Erasmus, manager of Insurance Expertise at IntegriSure Brokers.

Water shortages increase the likelihood of geyser failure and elevated pressure in water pipes, potentially leading to more frequent bursts. This, combined with power surges, heightens the risk of geyser damage. Erasmus explains, “When water levels drop below the geyser’s heating element, it can cause a short-circuit, leading to electrical shock or even fire. Such events will be handled as fire claims.”

Erasmus emphasises the importance of proactive measures for geyser safety and maintenance:

  • Switch off power to your geyser on the distribution board prior to water shedding and only reinstate power once the supply is restored.
  • Allow ample time for the geyser to refill if it has run empty before reactivating its power supply.
  • Service your geyser every three years by a qualified plumber. This involves draining the unit and inspecting its components, including wiring, breakers, anode, element, and thermostat. Regular maintenance helps minimise the risk of fires caused by short-circuits and faulty connections.
  • Inspect the entire system for leaks and ensure the thermostat temperature on the geyser is set no higher than 60°C, as per recommended safety guidelines.
  • Consider innovative solutions to prevent potential damage, such as online remote geyser management tools and sensor devices that allow for a predict-and-prevent approach to water risks.

With the predicted extended water interruptions, during the maintenance and infrastructure upgrades, assessing the vulnerability of water pipes is crucial. Excessive pressure when the water supply returns can damage pipes, leading to bursts and resultant water damage. Inspecting water pipes to identify and address existing damage can prevent further issues.

“Also ensure that taps are not left open during water disruptions,” cautions Erasmus. “This simple measure can help prevent potential flooding and subsequent damages when the water supply resumes.”

Practical Water-Saving Tips for Homeowners:

Ahead of water disruptions, it is advisable to:

  • Fill up containers, bathtubs, and sinks with water.
  • Stock up on bottled water for drinking and cooking.
  • Collect rainwater for gardening and other non-potable uses.

Additionally, be mindful of these water-saving habits:

  • Limit water usage to essential needs like drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene.
  • Take shorter showers and turn off the water while soaping up.
  • Turn off taps while brushing teeth, shaving, or washing hands.
  • Wash dishes in a basin or filled sink instead of running the tap continuously.
  • Do full loads of laundry on the shortest cycle possible.
  • Reuse greywater for watering plants or flushing toilets.

Erasmus advises consulting a broker to ensure adequate cover for geyser and water damage. “Understanding your policy’s cover is vital as we navigate through extended water interruptions. Adopting proactive measures and making informed decisions will help safeguard our homes and mitigate the impact of the ongoing water crisis.”

“By consulting a broker and implementing solutions that predict and prevent potential issues, rather than relying on reactive measures, we can better ensure the resilience and sustainability of our water infrastructure,” concludes Erasmus.