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City of Joburg outlines ambitious plans to mitigate water shortages

Johannesburg Water Brixton Tower

Photo by Tasneem Bulbulia

10th October 2023

By: Sane Dhlamini

Creamer Media Senior Contributing Editor and Researcher

     

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Joburg Water networks senior manager Logan Munsamy on Tuesday laid out a range of plans that the municipality would undertake as it deals with critical water supply challenges across various districts.

Between August and September, bulk water supplier Rand Water experienced various challenges with its infrastructure which negatively impacted the various water supply systems in the City of Johannesburg and other municipalities in Gauteng. 

On September 27, Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu announced that water shifting would be implemented in some areas to deal with the water shortages in the City. 

Water shifting involves moving the flow of water from systems with excess water, to areas experiencing water outages.

Meanwhile, Munsamy explained that the City’s non-revenue water for the 2022/23 financial year stood at 46.1%.

This includes commercial losses of 9.4%, unbilled unmetered consumption of 12.7%  and physical losses of 24.1%.

Joburg Water intends to reduce losses by repairing leaking reservoirs and tower infrastructure, repairing and replacing zonal bulk water meters, through active and passive leak detection, establishing new pressure management zones and minimum night flow analysis, as well as through the retrofitting and removal of wasteful devices.

The City will also look into infrastructure upgrades and renewals and the by-law enforcement of illegal connection cut-offs and reconnections.

He said water shortages had impacted all municipalities supplied by Rand Water’s Zuikerbosch Water Purification Plant.

This includes the Palmiet system which supplies the Linksfield, Alexander Park, and South Hills towers, as well as all of the Sandton and Midrand reservoirs, which were severely affected as some of the systems ran dry.

Through water shifting, Rand Water has redirected some water from the Eikenhof system to Palmiet, but Munsamy explained that during the process Rand Water reconfigured their systems at Eikenhof to operate more efficiently. 

He dismissed reports that Eikenhof's output had been reduced. 

He explained that Eikenhof was still pumping the exact volumes it did before water shifting was implemented.

Explaining the short-, medium- and long-term contingencies in place to bring down water consumption, Munsamy said that the City was intensifying leak detection exercises by fast-tracking the appointment of a contractor to roll out smart controllers "so that we can reduce the high system pressures which in turn reduces bursts, wastage and by doing so it allows the systems on the Rand Water [side] to recover a bit more quickly," said Munsamy. 

Other plans include the construction of 15 additional storage reservoirs in the next five years, which the City believes will increase adequate capacity to buffer water supply interruptions as a result of power supply interruptions.

The City also plans to commission the Zuikerbosch Water Purification Plant Station 5A Phase 2, which will supply an additional 450 megaliters of water a day.

Munsamy also added that the City would install standby generators at the Eikenhof, Palmiet and Zwartkopjes booster pump stations in the next five years.

“These generators will run a few pumps that will keep the system pressurised to mitigate the impact of air locks in the system because of pump stoppages when power supply interruptions occur,” he explained.

WATER CONSUMPTION

The City is dealing with the challenge of increased water consumption during a scorching spring season, which is negatively affecting already constrained systems.

Despite the City’s interventions, it does not foresee a downward projection in consumption. As a result, the municipality is increasing restrictions and throttling high consumption areas that normally would have high minimum flows.

He said the process was "dynamic" and assured residents that the City was trying to ensure that consumption was reduced. 

The City would continue to supply affected residents with water tankers. Munsumy added that the water supplied by tankers was of "good condition” as it was also extracted from City reservoirs.

He said the City of Johannesburg hoped that the water issue would be resolved quickly ahead of the festive season and assured residents that it would continue to educate those who were not complying by reducing water usage.

 

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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