SAB & Anglo-American hand over a report to solve Polokwane water woes

In 2019 the South African Breweries (SAB), Anglo American, and the Strategic Water Partners Network (SWPN) partnered with the City of Polokwane to protect and conserve the region’s scarce water resources through a Water Efficiency Leakage Reduction project. On Tuesday, 28th February 2023, SAB and Anglo American officially handed over the Phase 1 and Phase 2 project reports to the Executive Mayor of Polokwane, Cllr Mosema Makoro John Mpe.

The City of Polokwane Local Municipality is one of the most densely populated and economically significant areas in the Limpopo province. The area is experiencing water scarcity and augments most of its water supply through bulk water transfer schemes such as the Olifants-Sand and Ebenezer Dam systems at very high cost. Water balances in the Limpopo Water Management catchment areas are currently either in balance or in deficit, meaning projected water requirements exceed water availability.

With operations in the area, VP of Corporate Affairs at SAB, Zoleka Lisa says SAB had a duty to the community to do everything it could to protect its most valuable resource – water.

“By partnering with Anglo-American and SWPN, we are proud of the impact that we can achieve together. This study and report have proven that we should never underestimate the power of partnerships in bringing impact to life,” says Lisa.

The objectives of this study were to develop a Water Conservation and Water Demand Management (WCWDM) strategy and business plan for the City of Polokwane. This would help reduce water losses, unbilled and unaccounted-for water. The study included a detailed assessment of the Polokwane cluster (town) water supply area, which forms part of the Olifants-Sand regional water supply scheme.

The assessment was carried out over two phases and led to an improvement of water management within the municipality, including a reduction in water losses and non-revenue water.  Phase 1 was completed early 2020 and highlighted high inefficiencies (308 l/c/d), non-revenue water (NRW 69%) and water losses (44%), poor bulk and consumer metering and lack of a water balance. Results indicated that reducing the system input volume by 20% and increasing the billed consumption by 50%, the municipality will have an additional R 111 million/annum in reduced bulk purchase/treatment cost and increased revenue to implement WCWDM. Approximately R 30.6 million/annum is required for the next five years to improve the NRW, water losses and inefficiencies in the Polokwane cluster with a project payback period ranging between 3 and 5 years. The reduction in NRW and increased efficiency will contribute greatly to water security.

Phase 2 included bulk and top consumer water meters installation, control valve maintenance, monitoring and preventative maintenance. A water balance was set up with the necessary dashboards enabling the municipality to monitor and manage water better across the water supply system. The top consumer audits and monitoring showed that significant revenue could be generated from improved metering, reading and billing.  The City of Polokwane billed nine customers R26.91 million for 767 616 kl used from July 2021 to April 2022. The logging results indicate that the nine consumers used an average of 149 403 kl/month based on January to July 2022 logging results. Extrapolating the monthly consumption over 10 months, indicates that the City of Polokwane billed for only 50% of the actual consumption and under recovered approximately R23.6 million.

The recommended priority interventions in the third phase include visible leakage repair, bulk meter replacement/installation (improve the accuracy of baseline data), pressure management, improved top consumer metering and monitoring as well as flow, pressure and level monitoring.

Based on these findings, the report recommends that the planned WCWDM interventions be implemented, and targets be achieved as a matter of priority to improve the financial viability and water security of the municipality. 

As a key partner in this project, SWPN is a multi-stakeholder partnership that collectively strives to close the 17% gap in water supply and demand that is anticipated to manifest in South Africa by 2030. Run by the Department of Water and Sanitation, some of the biggest businesses in the country are strategically aligned with SWPN’s mission including SAB as a founding member, Anglo American, Coca-Cola, Sasol, and more.

Peter Varndell, CEO of the NEPAD Business Foundation who host the SWPN believes the Polokwane project is a prime example of impact in action. “This is about committed partners who understand their own impact and have a genuine interest in the future of the communities that they serve. SAB and Anglo American provide great impetus for other corporates to do more, but we couldn’t have done this without the help of local government,” says Varndell.

The City of Polokwane’s Executive Mayor, Cllr Mosema Makoro John Mpe highlighted that the water partnership came at an opportune time and reiterated the City of Polokwane’s commitment to collaborate with the private sector. “The City of Polokwane is the right partner for water conservation, water security and water demand management initiatives and we will continue to subscribe to the principles of governance, and avail resources needed to support such initiatives to ensure our communities enjoy a better life. Partnerships such as these are important as the government can leverage the expertise and experience of private sector and we can achieve more together,” says Mpe. View the full response by the Executive Mayor on this link.

Dr Johanita Kotze, Lead Water Africa and Australia at Anglo American believes in the importance of water stewardship and public private partnerships in bridging the water security gap in South Africa. “The greatest triumph is that we are putting the lost water back into the pipes to improve water security and supply to the people of Polokwane and simultaneously supporting the municipality in accounting for the water use because every drop counts,” says Kotze.

In the wake of the handover of these reports, it is clear that through private and public sector partnerships we can achieve maximum impact in resolving water challenges in our communities.

Enquiries can be sent to the SWPN Secretariat: