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More water tankers deployed in Joburg amid scheduled water system shutdown this week 

More water tankers deployed in Joburg amid scheduled water system shutdown this week 
Finetown residents in Gauteng fetch water from tankers in Finetown on 23 May 2022 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi)

Halfway through Johannesburg’s 58-hour shutdown of a significant chunk of its water system, water towers and reservoirs in some suburbs are critically low or already empty, with Johannesburg Water moving more tankers to hospitals and schools and deploying water trucks to affected neighbourhoods.

Rand Water’s 58-hour planned maintenance shutdown, which started on the night of Tuesday, 11 July, has left residents in some parts of Johannesburg without water.

The water shutdown, which is scheduled to end on Friday, 14 July, at 5am, has been implemented to allow for pipe upgrades in Rand Water’s system, with the overall aim of improving the availability and reliability of water supply. 

The project includes installing valves and a portion of pipe, which will enable interconnectivity of the three engine rooms at Rand Water’s Eikenhof pumping station. The pumping station pumps water from Rand Water’s purification plants, which purify water from the Vaal Dam, to various water systems and reservoirs across Gauteng.

Valves will also be replaced at the Zwartkopjes pumping station, as well as at the Vereeniging and Zuikerbosch water treatment plants, which treat water that comes from the Vaal Dam.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Joburg residents urgently advised to stock up on water ahead of scheduled water cuts next week

As the water system is interconnected, several booster pumping stations will be affected, including Daleside, Zwartkopjes and Eikenhof. The municipality’s Johannesburg Water said customers in higher-lying areas will experience the outage for longer as the network gradually recovers. 

Check to see if your area is affected by water cuts:

Areas not affected by the Rand Water shutdown include the Midrand and greater Sandton areas. However, a part of Sandton supplied from the Dunkeld reservoir will be affected. 

Where you can fill up on water

Johannesburg Water has deployed stationary tankers in critical areas such as hospitals, clinics, municipal offices, schools and police stations, while roaming water tankers will be deployed to the affected suburbs.

However, the entity has pleaded with residents not to approach critical sites such as hospitals and clinics to fetch water as this will drastically reduce the health facilities’ water supply. 

Johannesburg Water said on Wednesday night that it has provided an additional 149 stationary tanks and 65 water trucks to mitigate the water shortage during the Rand Water shutdown. 

The Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) is also assisting the Soweto depot in providing security for water tankers to ensure that they are able to deliver water safely to Soweto communities. 

Check where alternative supply is being made available below:

Is the water shutdown necessary?

According to Johannesburg Water, pump stations need to be shut down to provide a window period for maintenance that cannot be executed while the plant is operational. 

Professor Anthony Turton, a water resource management specialist at the Centre for Environmental Management at the University of the Free State, agreed that maintenance of this scale necessitates a shutdown, previously telling Daily Maverick:“Those pipelines are hundreds of kilometres long containing millions of litres of water at very high pressure. It’s impossible to weld the necessary hardware onto a steel pipe under pressure.”

On Monday, Johannesburg Water said the benefits of the shutdown allowed the entity to:

  • “Improve infrastructure reliability and availability;
  • Reduce unplanned infrastructure breakdowns (emergency breakdowns);
  • Allow flexibility, in that during maintenance, water supply can be supplemented from another pump station system, thereby reducing the impact of water supply interruptions; 
  • Upgrade old critical water supply infrastructure.” 

Project progress update

Johannesburg Water provided an update on the progress of the work as of Wednesday afternoon, 12 July:

Ennerdale, Orange Farm and Lawley areas

As of Wednesday afternoon, the work at Daleside Booster Pump Station that began on Tuesday at 7pm and affects Ennerdale, Orange Farm and Lawley areas, has been completed and water supply is normal.

The water tankers that were supplying these areas have been redeployed to supply those that are still in need, such as the Randburg/Roodepoort and Southdale regions. 

Johannesburg South and CBD

Work on Zwartjkopjes Booster Pump Station, which affects Johannesburg South and CBD, began on Tuesday night at 7pm, reducing water supply by 40% for 24 hours. Once work is completed (scheduled to finish at 7pm on Wednesday) it is estimated that recovery will take five days. 

Johannesburg Water reported on Wednesday night that while work there is progressing as scheduled, reservoirs and towers in the South and CBD are critically low to empty, and the system continues to take a strain. In some of the reservoirs, pumping has stopped. 

Greater Randburg and Roodepoort areas

Eikenhof Booster Pump Station, which affects Greater Randburg and Roodepoort areas, is the system that is most affected by this shutdown – with work at this station lasting from Tuesday night to Friday morning, reducing water supply by 24% for 58 hours. It is estimated that once the work is complete, the full recovery of water supply will take up to 10 days. 

As of Wednesday afternoon, the reservoirs in this area are critically low to empty, the towers are empty, and there is no water at direct supply points. 

Soweto, South of Johannesburg and Lenasia

The same booster pump station affects Soweto, the South of Johannesurg and Lenasia. 

Johannesburg Water reported that as of Wednesday afternoon, reservoirs and towers in Soweto have capacity; however, the Doornkop reservoir is empty and the Tshepisong direct supply does not have water either. The Lenasia and South systems are critically low to empty. DM

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