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Joburg Water – here are their answers to our burning questions about the supply crisis

Joburg Water – here are their answers to our burning questions about the supply crisis
The Yeoville reservoir overflowing on 30 March 2023. (Photo: Twitter / @gabrielleozyns1)

While Johannesburg Water continues with interventions to improve and secure a steady water supply, ongoing water cuts are causing a lot of frustration for many residents in the city. Daily Maverick asked Joburg Water to answer questions about what’s causing the interruptions to the supply and what is being done to resolve the long-standing crisis.

Daily Maverick asked the questions. Joburg Water spokesperson Nolwazi Dhlamini answered.

Question: When will water be restored for the Joburg residents affected because of the issues at the Yeoville reservoir?

Answer: Operations resumed at the Yeoville pump station after repairs were completed successfully on a malfunctioning motor. This comes after the faulty motor, which was the reason behind the water outage in the area, was serviced and installed in the early hours of 9 May.

Q: What is the current state of water supply in Johannesburg, and what steps are being taken to address any ongoing issues?

A: Johannesburg Water’s system has been under immense pressure in the past few months due to Rand Water experiencing various failures on its bulk infrastructure. The City of Johannesburg is supplied from the Eikenhof, Zwartkopjes and Palmiet booster stations which were affected by frequent power failures, vandalism to its infrastructure and planned infrastructure maintenance work which contributed to the low or empty supply of water in various areas across the City. Eikenhof, which supplies portions of the South of Johannesburg, West of Johannesburg, Randburg, Roodepoort and Soweto, was affected by frequent power failures. Zwartkopjes, which supplies the Central and Northern parts of Johannesburg, was affected by vandalism and power failure. Palmiet, which supplies portions of the South of Johannesburg, East of Johannesburg, Sandton, Midrand and Diepsloot, was affected by frequent power failures and vandalism incidents.

Recently, Johannesburg Water completed urgent interventions to improve and secure a steady water supply to the struggling Commando System. This was part of the entity’s urgent interventions to improve the poor water supply by linking the Hursthill 1 reservoir to the Northcliff reservoir. The project was completed last month.

Subsequent to the incident of 30 March 2023 at the Yeoville Pump Station, which resulted in a water outage in the area, Johannesburg Water embarked on an emergency tender process to procure the damaged electrical components for two pump sets. The tender process closed on Wednesday, 3 May and is currently being evaluated with the intention to appoint a service provider by Monday, 8 May.

The City has also engaged City Power to grant us some reprieve from load shedding in areas that have Johannesburg Water system networks. This will provide an opportunity to commence with repairs and work through delivering uninterrupted water supply to residents. The City will also be approaching Eskom on the same request. Johannesburg Water provides daily water notices which outline in detail the planned and unplanned water interruptions.

Q: What is the current status of water tariffs and how are they determined, and what measures are being taken to ensure that water remains affordable for all residents?

A: The City of Johannesburg’s billing department can elaborate on that.

Q: How can residents and businesses in Johannesburg help to support efforts to improve the water supply and address ongoing water issues?

A: Johannesburg Water regularly embarks on public awareness campaigns to educate communities about water conservation and scarcity. The entity also publishes, through social media platforms, stakeholder forums and other communication channels, educational information about how residents and businesses can play a part in saving water.

Theft and vandalism of infrastructure also play a huge role in hampering reliable and uninterrupted water supply to residents and businesses. The City of Johannesburg loses more than millions of rands a year to theft and vandalism of infrastructure and assets, hampering service delivery and putting residents’ lives at risk.

Q: What are some of the long-term plans for improving the water supply in Johannesburg, and how will these be implemented?

A: The following is what we do (are doing) to address water challenges in the city:

One of the most recent and notable interventions that we are undertaking as Johannesburg Water is the linking of the Northcliff (which is stable and has enough bulk supply) and Hursthill reservoirs to boost water supply. This intervention is a measure from Johannesburg Water’s infrastructure perspective, so that there will be stable and convenient water supply in one of our biggest and problematic systems, the Commando System (comprising Brixton, Crosby and Hurstill).

We work closely with ward councillors in all affected areas to assist us to identify central areas where we can deploy our stationary tankers and roaming tankers.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Residents face more supply cuts while Johannesburg Water clams up over crisis

Johannesburg Water is also in the process of upgrading the main water supply into Jan Hofmeyer, which forms part of the Brixton System, after it was discovered that the pipe diameter had restrictions in certain sections.

We have also engaged our colleagues at City Power to grant us some reprieve from load shedding in areas that have Johannesburg Water system networks. This will provide us with an opportunity to commence with repairs and work through delivering an uninterrupted water supply to residents. We have also approached Eskom on the same request.

joburg water

A tanker delivers water in Yeoville on 8 May 2023. (Photo: Twitter / @JHBWater)

Aisha Hoosen posted this photo of the Yeoville reservoir on 30 March 2023. (Photo: @Aisha_00268 / Twitter)

Johannesburg Water has a dedicated team that regularly inspects and cracks down illegal connections in order to deal with theft and vandalism and loss of assets.

Johannesburg Water will also invest in the following programmes: Reservoir storage upgrades; water pipe replacement in various regions; water conservation; water demand management (WC/WDM) which will include repairs of leaking reservoirs and tower infrastructure. The WC/WDM strategy aims to reduce demand by 37,123Ml per annum from the technical interventions. Water conservation initiatives will contribute to further demand reduction; bulk pipe renewal/upgrades.

Q: What is the role of Johannesburg Water in addressing issues related to water quality, and what measures are being taken to ensure the water is safe for consumption?

A: One of our key mandates as Johannesburg Water is the provision of clean and safe drinking water that meets the high-quality requirements of the South African National Standard (SANS) 241 for drinking water quality. 

To fulfil this mandate, Johannesburg Water has three testing laboratories – Cydna, Goudkoppies and the Northern Works laboratories – which all have fully qualified and competent staff to ensure that what comes out of Johannesburg’s taps meets the high-quality requirements of SANS 241. 

Johannesburg Water has testing points at inlets and outlets of reservoirs in ensuring that the water quality is being monitored through the scientists at our Cydna Laboratory. In areas where water quality issues are identified, samples are retaken, and Johannesburg Water has standard operating procedures that talk to such cases where water issues are identified.

Q: What is being done to ensure that water infrastructure is properly maintained and upgraded to meet the growing demand for water in Johannesburg?

Johannesburg Water has 10 depots within the City of Johannesburg’s seven regions. These depots have water and sanitation maintenance teams that are responsible for repairs and maintenance of existing water and sewer services. There is also a service level agreement (SLA) which talks to response times and in addition there are monthly reports submitted by each depot on the number of repairs done and reasons given where it was not possible to achieve the stipulated SLA. The planned shutdowns (including the currently planned Rand Water 39-hour shutdown) are for the purpose of maintaining infrastructure.

Q: What are some of the major challenges that Johannesburg Water has faced in providing consistent access to clean water, and how have these been addressed in the past?

A: Ageing infrastructure is a huge issue for Johannesburg Water. Due to budget cuts the entity is unable to meet its target on infrastructure upgrades and replacements. Vandalism of infrastructure caused by uncontrolled land invasion, overcrowding in hijacked buildings and non-payment of rates which leads to reduced revenue collection. DM

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  • John Counihan says:

    Funny how the same whine comes up as Eskom uses: “aging infrastructure”, as though this is some inevitable law of physics. It is not! Aging infrastructure, as at Eskom, results after years of failure to maintain and renew infrastructure by an ANC government focused on what they do best: rampant corruption and gross displays of incompetence. And part of their legacy is a hopeless policing system, so that what is left of the “aging infrastructure” is vandalised at will.

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