Minimising water losses ahead of Day Zero
Johannesburg - The Eastern Cape has been plagued by persistent drought, forcing some areas to turn to water shedding and rationing. For the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, the region's worst water crisis now threatens to wreak havoc as taps run dry and Day Zero looms.
Experts are warning residents in affected areas throughout the Eastern Cape to be extra vigilant to avoid hefty personal losses as a result of the crisis.
"Water shortages are notoriously known for causing damage to business and household contents, equipment and buildings," explains Lizo Mnguni, spokesperson for Old Mutual Insure. "While it is understandable during times of such crises to be preoccupied with the immediate concern of where or how to source alternate supplies of water if the taps run dry, there are hidden dangers when there is a water shortage that could severely affect people's back-pockets."
Mnguni explains that the risks increase when there is forced "water shedding" or rationing, which means water is only supplied to specific areas during certain times, as well as when water restrictions are applied, that is, residents are only meant to use water for specific activities during certain times.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Metropole has been forced to ration water to residents in an effort to curb the crisis.
"This has a raised a serious concern as a lack of water could cause damage to geysers, swimming pools or other equipment, and could also materially affect the functioning and effectiveness of firefighting equipment that relies on water," says Mnguni. "It is also important to know that even during a severe drought, a property can still be damaged by water, either when it rains or when taps are left open."
He says that most non-life insurance policies exclude loss or damage due to drought or the shortage of water, which is why "prevention of potential losses is the best course of action to take." He urges policyholders – whether businesses or residents – to work with their insurers to manage the increased threat of a lack of water.
Below are Mnguni's top guidelines to assist those affected and to minimise potential losses:
- Automatic sprinklers systems must be serviced and maintained according to the specifications. Properties where the automatic sprinkler systems are fed directly from the municipal mains or where the water tanks or reservoirs are topped-up from the municipal mains, are especially vulnerable. We recommend that policyholders engage the services of suitably qualified professionals to assess the installation, identify and address any significant gaps. When it is not possible to address these gaps, the policyholder must contact their insurer or broker so that an amicable solution can be found.
- Swimming pools tend to crack if not filled with water, however, a shortage/lack of water is not covered under insurance policies. Therefore, to prevent costly repairs to cracked swimming pools, it is advisable to install pool covers to limit the rate of evaporation.
- Damage to geysers (traditional/solar/heat pumps) is covered if caused by an insured peril. It is important to make sure that only SABS-approved equipment is installed by suitably qualified professionals as this will limit any damage. When the water supply is shut off for any prolonged period, policyholders should follow these steps to minimise risk:
- The system should be isolated electrically at the circuit breaker within the electrical distribution board (DB). This will prevent the element from burning out in the event of back siphonage or if the system is drained.
- Solar collectors and evacuated tubes that contain no water are prone to damage and degradation if not covered and exposed to solar radiance. Therefore, it is necessary to cover these to prevent exposure to the sun.
- To assist in minimising damage from water during drought-times, always keep taps closed, even though there is no water, as this will prevent wastage and flooding of the property when the water is turned back on. Remember to keep gutters and storm water drains clean to prevent flooding and lastly, inform the municipality if the public storm water drains are blocked or if you notice a leak.
"Lastly, even though it seems counterintuitive, remember that the threat of fires increases during water scarce times. Consider installing water tanks to collect rainwater, which will provide a much-needed fire water supply to the fire brigade and fire teams. Also look at getting additional firefighting equipment to place in high-risk areas to increase the firefighting capability substantially. For example, fire blankets in kitchens or 50-kg wheeled fire extinguishers in the plant and machinery of large properties," concludes Mnguni.