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Detection systems used to save water

It has also highlighted that 70 million litres of clean drinking water are lost each day to leaking infrastructure.

As the world marked World Environment Day on June 5, Massmart has called for intensified water-saving efforts across South Africa, emphasising the urgency of addressing the country’s water scarcity.

The group detailed its ongoing initiatives to conserve water, particularly through the detection and repair of leaks within its operations.

Highlighting the critical issue, Massmart noted South Africa loses 70 million litres of clean drinking water daily because of leaking infrastructure.

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“Given that South Africa is already a country with water scarcity, it is imperative to ensure water is not wasted,” the company stated.

Massmart’s water-saving measures include the use of atmospheric water generators in large stand-alone stores during times of extreme water stress.

These generators capture humidity from the air and convert it into potable water.

Additionally, refrigeration condensate harvesting is employed at 15 Makro sites, where they collect condensation from refrigeration units for non-potable water needs.

In regions with higher rainfall, rainwater is harvested for irrigation, such as at Builders stores’ plant nurseries.

The company’s most significant water-saving initiative has been early leak detection; a key focus over the past three years because of ageing municipal water infrastructure.

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Nicole Atcheson, environmental sustainability manager at Massmart, pointed out approximately 40% of municipal water in South Africa is lost to leaks.

“We have placed particular emphasis on the early detection of leaks in high water usage stores, home offices, and distribution centres that collectively account for about 57% of all our facilities,” Atcheson said.

Massmart employs 24/7 water consumption tracking, using ultrasonic water meters to detect leaks in real-time, which the company estimates saved about 15 million litres of water in 2023.

“The process involves intelligent, automatic monitoring of site water usage based on historical water consumption profiles.

“When a leak occurs, the system detects it immediately and generates an alert that remains active until the leak is resolved,” Atcheson explained.

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This initiative not only has a positive environmental impact but also reduces municipal water consumption costs, enabling Massmart to potentially lower prices for customers.

“Lowering our water consumption bill allows us to save money that we can pass on to our customers through lower prices, which is a fantastic outcome for retail sustainability professionals,” Atcheson said.

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