Joburg’s water woes could take 10 years to be resolved

Johannesburg mayor Kabelo Gwamanda. Picture: Timothy Bernard / African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg mayor Kabelo Gwamanda. Picture: Timothy Bernard / African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 15, 2024


The City of Johannesburg could take up to 10 years to resolve its water problems that have rocked the country’s economic capital in recent years.

In the last two weeks, the city has been scrambling to find solutions to its water woes that left scores of residents across the municipality with dry taps for 10 days.

According to the metro, the recent water interruptions were sparked by a power outage at the Eikenhof pump station almost two weeks ago, but some parts of the city are still struggling with water today.

Non-profit-organisation WaterCan has repeatedly warned that the ageing infrastructure and leaks were the main instigator of water shortages in the city.

The NPO reportedly said the metro was losing up to 44% of its fresh drinking water, with 25% being lost to leaks.

Speaking to The Star yesterday, Johannesburg mayor Kabelo Gwamanda admitted that the city had a long-standing issue of ageing infrastructure, saying it was not necessarily damaged, but aged.

He said the city had come up with a 10-year plan to assess the infrastructure across it.

“We have a 10-year plan whereby we start assessing our infrastructure across the board so that we can have scientific evidence on how we are going to deploy our resources.

“This would simply mean that it would assist us to distinguish between what infrastructure requires to be replaced and which one requires refurbishment…so that we can be able to deploy our financial resources accordingly.”

He said he did not see that there was a long-term problem because the city got its water supply directly from Rand Water, and they paid for this service on a monthly basis.

Gwamanda added that the city was looking to invest in its own water purification system as an alternative whenever there are issues with Rand Water.

He said the 10-day water outage was a result of a lightning strike at one of the stations that supplies energy to Rand Water’s infrastructure, but it was later found, after investigation, that one of the valves had been closed, resulting in a further delay to the supply of water.

“So it was two faults; the initial cause was lightning, but it was further exacerbated by one of the valves that was closed off… but I can say confidently that water has been restored and the water levels are stabilising within our infrastructure.

However, executive manager at WaterCAN, Dr Ferrial Adam argued that the city did not have a handle on the water problems as reports were rife that some parts of the city were still struggling with the supply of pressured water.

“It might be that it could be isolated to saying that there had been a lightning strike. The fact here is that Rand Water and the City of Joburg are not talking adequately to people … and we don’t know what’s happening, and I think that they don’t have a handle on the issue. And what concerns me is if this continues this way, they are going to lose track of everything, and then it’s going to be worse,” Adam said.

On Wednesday, in a statement, Rand Water said they would be investigating why a valve was closed which delayed supply of water to more than 20 suburbs.

The Star