Gauteng, South Africa’s economic hub, is currently experiencing significant water shortages. These shortages are primarily a result of dwindling reservoir levels, which can be attributed to the high demand for water in the region.

By Nasi Hako

Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu has called on water service authorities to implement water shifting as part of interim plans to address the challenges that have left some communities in Gauteng without water.

Mchunu made these recommendations while he held an engagement with community members from South Hills in Johannesburg on Tuesday, following the water supply challenges experienced in the area.

Residents in South Hills have been without water for more than two weeks. Johannesburg Water advised that this was as a result of low levels in Rand Water’s Klipriviersberg reservoir, which was caused by the power failure at Rand Water’s Zuikerbosch Water Treatment Plant following the storm on 19 September 2023. 

Communities call for basic service delivery

During the meeting, residents complained that while some of them have been without water for weeks, they have received high water bills. 

The residents told the Minister that grievances are taken seriously only when they take to the streets. They further said there was zero accountability from the government regarding the lack of basic service delivery.

Responding to the community members, Mchunu said decisions taken from the meeting should be implemented as soon as possible.

“We must not subject people to emotional stress all the time. Hold us accountable because water is a sensitive and emotional subject. We are focused on resolving the problems,” Mchunu said.

The Minister said the issues that came from the meeting include accountability, water shifting, poor infrastructure, reservoirs and water conservation.

Implementing water shifting in the interim

Regarding water shifting, Rand Water has assured Mchunu that they will implement load shifting from a line that is not too busy and redirect to Palmiet, until the water system recovers and is able to provide water supply to high-lying areas.

“We are going to water shift as an interim measure. Technicians will be monitoring the system 24/7 as we shift water from system to system,” Mchunu explained.

The Minister called on Rand Water to have a set timeline for when the extra 150 mega litres will be made available from Station 5A.

He said the City of Johannesburg must start the process of replacing old leaking pipes to stop large volumes of water being lost due to leaks.

“Water shifting is not a permanent solution, so we have to do something permanent to address this challenge. I support Joburg Water’s initiative to construct a temporary pump station to assist with the turnaround recovery of water shortages.

“Joburg Water will share implementation plans and time frames regarding the development of the pump at the South Hills tower,” he said.

The Ministry of Water and Sanitation is currently conducting site visits to various areas in Gauteng that have been affected by water outages.

Water treatment secured amid loadshedding

Meanwhile, the Western Cape Government has transferred R5.6 million (more than $291,000) to the Bitou Municipality as part of its Emergency Municipal Loadshedding Relief Grant. The funds will ensure wastewater treatment in the municipality continues uninterrupted during loadshedding through the use of generators.

This was revealed during a meeting of the Ad-hoc Committee on the Energy Crisis on 27 September 2023. The municipality further revealed that these generators ensured that the taps could keep running for the 21,196 households that Bitou services, including 4,131 indigent households.

In Bitou, the entire grant was spent to purchase and install 6 generators for 3 key wastewater treatment plants and 3 reservoir and elevated tower sites. One mobile generator was also procured to service the municipal depot. The generators were installed at the following sites:

  • Roodefontein Dam Bulk Raw Water Pump Station – 400kVA generator
  • Uplands Keurbooms River Bulk Raw Water Pump Station – new 650kVA diesel engine for generator
  • Kurland Wastewater Treatment Works – 150kVA generator
  • Cutty Sark Water reservoir and elevated towers – 150kVA generator
  • Ebenezer Water reservoir and elevated tower – 150kVA generator
  • Kwanokuthula Water reservoir and tower – 150kVA generator
  • Municipal Depot mobile generator – 100kVA generator –

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