Many South African schools struggle to maintain their water systems, particularly in the water-constrained Western Cape province, where the so-called “Day Zero” drought had intensified the urgency of saving water and increased the cost of supply. The problem is compounded by insufficient governmental funding, the lack of well-structured government policies, and a shortage of skilled maintenance staff at the schools. We evaluate the impact of a plumbing maintenance drive at 196 schools at the apex of the drought. Hypothesising that even the most basic maintenance could be a huge financial help to these schools, we gave plumbers a list of typical easy-gain repairs and restricted the budget to R5000 per school, with some ad hoc exceptions. We then analysed the cost and benefit of these repairs, using data on the minimum night flow as recorded by smart water meters. We found an average of 28% reduction in MNF within five days of the reported maintenance date. The once-off R1.22 million spent on the 196 schools resulted in a monthly saving of R1.90 million – a saving that the schools could put to academic purposes.
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