Asbestos Cement (AC) Pipe Replacement Project, South Africa

The eThekwini Municipality has an estimated total of 11 463 km of water mains serving 3.4 million people.

The asbestos cement (AC) pipe had surpassed its design life, which, together with high water pressures, led to frequent bursts. This affected service delivery and increased operational costs.

In response to the above, the aim of the Asbestos Cement (AC) Water Relay Programme, initiated by eThekwini Water and Sanitation (EWS), was to replace 2 800 km of undipped AC secondary water mains with diameters of 160 mm and less.

Aurecon was responsible for converting a budget into works packages; managing the delivery of works; managing the contract; and providing cost consulting services. Further responsibilities included providing design services in separate water zones and monitoring the quality of the construction works.

The project was one of 16 different interventions currently being carried out to combat water loss and ensure future water supplies in the municipality, with the overall goal of reducing water losses from 40% to 23% over the next five years.

Its completion in 2010 signalled the replacement of 1 600 km of burst prone AC pipes with new modified polyvinyl chloride (m) PVC pipes. These new pipes have an estimated 50 year lifespan.

Apart from the primary benefit of ensuring that the community has access to a reliable supply of potable water, other benefits of the project include a decrease in recorded bursts (with no bursts on the new lines to date), and thus a decrease in costs spent on operations and maintenance; a reduction in non-revenue water; addressing water demand in areas of increased development; and updating the EWS Geographic Information System and asset register.

In addition, the project led to the creation of 45 000 jobs over a 3 year period, with labour being drawn from the communities in which the project was active. Coupled to this, a successful small enterprise development programme (a social deliverable required by the client) saw 14 out of 16 subcontractors achieve a two notch upgrade on the Construction Industry Development Board’s ratings.

The project was recognised at the 2010 Construction World Best Projects Awards. The annual ceremony, which showcases excellence in the South African building, civil engineering and project management sectors, awarded this project a certificate of commendation for coming third in the category for innovation and sustainable construction. This category sees entrants present their innovative use of technology, good corporate social investment and risk management systems.