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Diepsloot gets a plumbing makeover!

1 October 2016

How the Australian team engineered a sustainable solution in a desperate community. “Seeing the living conditions in Diepsloot was extremely confronting to all of us,” says Greg Tink. “It was the worst poverty I have ever seen and a stark contrast to the city of Johannesburg.”

Greg was Team Leader along with Aaron Bridger, joined by teammates Luke Pettenon and Sam Welsh (plumbers), Mitchell Fisch (metal fabricator) and Kirstin Griese (architect/design). Together they represented Australia at the Community Plumbing Challenge program, which demonstrates the vital role of the plumbing industry in protecting public health. The Australian team was organised by Plumbing Industry Climate Action Centre (PICAC). The task for the team was to design and install new sanitation systems in existing toilet and wash facilities across the densely populated township.

Like many communities in developing countries, Diepsloot was rife with water sanitation issues. Diepsloot is an informal settlement established in 1995 and situated north of Johannesburg, South Africa. With a population of 800,000, pipes are often blocked and don’t drain effectively. The few that are operational are remarkably damaged.

Greg believes that a lack of access to skilled tradespeople, together with inadequate funding is the reason the settlement’s plumbing is in such a state of disrepair. They worked in close collaboration with the Water, Amenities and Sanitation Services Upgrade Project (WASSUP) team who play an active role in educating the community of Diepsloot in good water sanitation principles. The team was in Diepsloot for six days and although a complete solution was not possible in that time, they feel they made a difference.

The Australian team and those from the United States of America, India and South Africa worked together to provide innovative solutions. “When you get a bunch of skilled individuals together faced with a common challenge, you tend to get some interesting solutions since each person has expertise in a different area.” They were able to lay functional cisterns and pipework that withstood the harsh conditions of the South African terrain for many years to come.

The new designs took into consideration the current infrastructure (including toilets, taps and drains), community sanitation needs, ongoing maintenance, and the ability to control and monitor water usage. “Our projects were entirely sourced from local suppliers which meant that they are easy to maintain and are compatible with future projects” Greg added.

“Overall it was such a privilege to take our skills and experience earned in Australia and apply them to a community so desperate for skilled operators and decent water plumbing solutions. It filled us with a sense of personal satisfaction and I would encourage anyone to experience that feeling.”

Read more about their stories online: https://cpcteamaus.wordpress.com/?ref=spelling

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