Our Burning Planet


Gauteng’s full dams are not an invitation for increased water use

Gauteng’s full dams are not an invitation for increased water use
Grootdraai Dam on 23 February 2017 in Deneysville, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Beeld / Felix Dlangamandla)

Dams are full but taps are dry in Gauteng. Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu reprimanded residents for excessive water consumption, while laying the path for efforts by authorities in the province to address water issues.

Gauteng’s water demand and consumption surpass the global average, which raises serious concerns, especially in a province with ailing water and sanitation infrastructure, according to Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu. 

The minister’s media briefing on Tuesday comes amid intensified struggles by Johannesburg and greater Gauteng to ensure water access to citizens, a struggle that has been exacerbated by ongoing national rolling blackouts. 

“In order for us to guarantee water security to the people of Gauteng, like everywhere else we build dams and distribute via pipelines to various networks, which requires infrastructure. Currently, we are happy to say that most of our dams are full and there is adequate bulk water and, therefore, there is adequate bulk water security in Gauteng,” Mchunu said. 

Gauteng Dam levels over the past year 

The province’s adequate bulk water should not, however, support Gauteng’s high daily water consumption, which at 300 litres per capita surpasses not only national water use patterns (233 litres), but global rates (173 litres) as well. 

While the province has some water security, it exists in the context of a water-scarce country. This was one of the factors that Mchunu said had prompted him and Gauteng water stakeholders to take action against not only reckless water use in the province, but also the lack of accessibility to water despite bulk security. 

“Government not building capacity and infrastructure is a thing of the past. It may have been so in the past few years where attention to infrastructure has been low. We are now addressing that and addressing it effectively. Us working together is accelerating that and accelerating the change that the United Nations is calling for. And we have taken the first step in February with Rand Water,” he said. 

In early February, Rand Water unveiled a new 210ML reservoir that is being built to augment water storage capacity. The reservoir, which is an addition to Vlakfontein’s existing 420ML reservoir and is expected to be completed in April 2023, will supply areas such as Pretoria East, Ekurhuleni, Govan Mbeki, Victor Khanye, Thembisile Hani and Lesedi municipalities. 

Additional storage capacity hasn’t always worked out well for the province’s plans to address water security among its residents. A R45-million 15ML dam was built around Lenasia in efforts to end the area’s years-long battle with water access. But the launch of the reservoir changed little to nothing for residents, whose lives have revolved around limited water supply. 

Read in Daily Maverick: A R45m reservoir later, and still no water: Lenasia South residents’ ‘stressful and sickening’ predicament

The new reservoir by Rand Water is in tune with Mchunu’s announcement that the province was investing more money in water and sanitation infrastructure in order to improve water access. 

Gauteng municipalities investment 

The minister said stakeholders were also tackling water availability by addressing leaks to reduce water losses and implementing water conservation measures. He also called for an end to informal settlements that resulted in unplanned and illegal water connections. 

He said his department was also going ahead with Phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, which was supposed to be concluded in 2018. The project is expected to transfer up to 485 million cubic metres of water a year to Gauteng. 

Read in Daily Maverick: Why Joburg has worsening water issues — even when the dams are full

Said Mchunu: “In Gauteng, as much as we talk about a full Vaal dam and all of these plans, we are by no means saying there is plenty of water to waste. Please, for the future generations, for efficiency and for us to share water all over. Please, the name of the game is to use water sparingly.” DM/OBP

Absa OBP

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Trevor Pope says:

    The minister failed to mention the 40% lost to leaks. This means that the per-capita usage is 180 litres per day, which is comparable to the global average given.

  • Heinrich Holt says:

    To Emfuleni Local Municipality: Fix my water meter and fix the leaks so that accurate statistics can be reported to the puplic.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Instead of celebrating investment in critical infrastructure, most of us see it as an inroad for opportunists to find and solicit corrupt deals with the state. Viva, ANC, Viva!

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