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Power outages a threat to Joburg water supply, damaging City Power infrastructure

Illustrative image. Photo: Adobestock

Eskom’s implementation of Stage 4 load shedding is affecting more than the power supply. Johannesburg Water has warned residents that if power outages continued there was an increased likelihood that the taps could run dry. The City added that the municipality’s ageing infrastructure takes strain whenever the national grid is rebooted.

Joburgers may soon have to start stockpiling water if stage 4 load shedding continues for much longer. Johannesburg Water released a statement on Monday advising residents to check the load shedding schedule as this could and would affect the amount of water supplied to households.

In the event of load shedding for a duration of four hours and more, pockets of areas will have water shortages or even low pressure because Johannesburg Water uses electricity to pump water from the reservoir to towers,” the statement read.

Speaking to Daily Maverick, Issac Dhludhlu from Johannesburg Water explained that the utility has a number of reservoirs in the city of Johannesburg that are used to store water and that there are several towers that are also used during load shedding.

If and when we experience load shedding, the problem comes in that the tower does not take in a lot of water like a reservoir. Whenever we experience load shedding we cannot pump from the reservoir into the tower and that tends to affect supply,” Dhludhlu told Daily Maverick.

Dhludhlu said when load shedding was done at stage 2 or 3 when it was not for more than three hours, there was no problem. Difficulties arose when power was out for four or more hours, as is the case with stage 4 load shedding.

This means that those areas and people that are getting the water directly from the tower won’t have water. But those that are getting directly from the reservoir will not be impacted at least for another eight hours or so,” Dhludhlu said.

At this stage, there are no contingency plans in place to meet residents’ needs if electricity is out for more long periods. Dhludhlu said that there were not enough water tankers to accommodate everyone experiencing load shedding and water shortages.

We are appealing to all those affected customers and residences to check the load shedding schedule on the City Power website so that they can have enough water or make a plan to ensure that they have enough water for the duration of the power outage. In cases where the outage lasts longer they should log a call and we should be able to provide tankers to only those that are affected,” Dhludhlu said.

He said it was impossible to say at this stage which areas are affected by water shortages because “those that are affected will differ from time to time”.

Meanwhile, City of Johannesburg councillor Nico de Jager, MMC for Environment and Infrastructure Services, said City Power was being severely affected by the unprecedented load shedding.

The reality is that both financial and operational damage is being done, and this will be felt even after load shedding stops. City Power’s operational staff are overstretched and always on standby to deal with the restoration of power and after-effects of load shedding, as seen during this week. Rebooting the power grids is to the detriment of already aged infrastructure and will lead to a failure risk of said infrastructure,” he said.

De Jager said the City had inherited infrastructure that was not regularly maintained, with the backlog standing at R170-billion. “This means that whenever it rains and restorations occur after load shedding, the power system gets weakened and the depots are inundated with power outage reports.”

Adding to this, whenever there is load shedding the aged network also takes extreme strain due to the massive load shifting and power surge that occurs when Eskom cuts and restores the power, he said.

De Jager said Eskom was unable to say how long the current situation would continue. DM

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