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System not collapsing despite immense strain to several reservoirs, towers, says Joburg Water

Joburg Water has provided an overview of its water supply. File photo.
Joburg Water has provided an overview of its water supply. File photo.
Image: Chayatorn Laorattanavech

Joburg Water denied that its system is in danger of collapsing, despite confirming that several reservoirs and towers are under immense strain due to various challenges.

This was revealed during a media briefing on Tuesday to provide an update on the state of water supply in the city and the recent challenges to supply.

The city has battled with severe water shortages in recent months, with various areas struggling with low to no water supply.

Rand Water experienced several issues with its bulk infrastructure between August 24 and September 24, which had a negative impact on Gauteng municipalities and their water supply. The worst of these was between September 19 and 24 at Zuikerbosch purification plant and this affected Zwartkopjes, Eikenhof and Palmiet stations.

Joburg Water gets its water supply from the Daleside, Zwartkopjes, Eikenhof and Palmiet booster pump stations.

Logan Munsamy, the senior manager for networks, provided an overview of the challenges faced by Rand Water and how these affected Joburg Water’s supply to residents.

He expounded on the challenges Rand Water experienced between August and September and the dire effect it had on the city.

“On August 24, there were basically power dips. Power dips is the incoming power supply from Lethabo [pumping station] on the Zuikerbosch side going below the acceptable voltage and the equipment trips out. So that negatively impacted Zwartkopjes, Eikenhof and Palmiet systems,” he said.

“It was about four hours but was restored later that afternoon. One might think four hours is a short period of time, but in the water industry ... when you lose four hours pumping time, it [results in] reservoirs going dry or empty and the recovery period is also longer. So every hour you lose, every minute you lose in a strained water network, has a major ripple effect in the downstream reservoirs, in this case Joburg.”

There’s been an upward trajectory since July. Consumption has been going up and up. There have been dips, these are times where we don’t have water or there is less consumption. But as a whole, one can see an upward trajectory that has surpassed the baseline
Logan Munsamy, Joburg Water

He said that incident had an impact on the South Hills tower as the water supply was reduced and the entity could not pump water into the tower and, in turn, the Alexander Park and Linksfield reservoirs.

Just weeks later, on September 14, Munsamy revealed that Rand Water noticed increasing consumption on customer meters in the Eikenhof system. This placed strain on the system and resulted in the bulk water supplier being unable to “maintain its reservoirs at an acceptable level”.

Turning to the incidents on September 19, 21 and 24 at Zuikerbosch, Munsamy said while it “severely affected” Midrand, Sandton, South Hills, Alexander Park and Linksfield reservoir systems, those under Eikenhof also experienced low to no water supply in the days that followed.

Munsamy provided an analysis of the city’s weekly water consumption patterns and said the city should be consuming 1,493Ml a day. “But that’s not the case ... there’s been an upward trajectory since July. Consumption has been going up and up. There have been dips, these are times where we don’t have water or there is less consumption. But as a whole, one can see an upward trajectory that has surpassed the baseline.

“What this equates to is roughly 12.7% [189.15Ml more] above our target,” he said.

Munsamy also used the presentation to correct reporting around the non-revenue water figure. This stands at 46.1% but Munsamy explained what this figure included. Non-revenue water refers to water the entity is not generating revenue from. 

“Out of the 46.1%, we have commercial losses of 9.4% and unmetered consumption of 12.7%. These are basically ... billing losses and unmetered consumption. The actual physical loss is 24.1% [which is] actually loss through leaks, leaking reservoirs, pipelines.”

The entity confirmed that the following systems remain under “immense strain”:

  • South Hills tower and pump station;
  • Crown Gardens;
  • Commando System;
  • Naturena;
  • Midrand;
  • Alexander Park; and
  • the Sandton/Illovo reservoir systems.

It said it was “unable to pump and residents in these supply zones are receiving intermittent to no water supply”.

Despite this, Munsamy moved to reassure residents that overall the system was in no danger of collapsing.

“As it stands, no the system is not collapsing. The system consists of multiple reservoirs throughout the city — we’ve got about 86 reservoirs and 35 water towers — so there’s just certain parts of the Johannesburg system that are affected. One of them is the South Hills pump station, which has a problem because the incoming supplies are poor and with that, we’re unable to pump sufficiently.

“The other system where there is a bit of a challenge ... is a portion by Crown Gardens, which essentially is Robertsham.”

To mitigate these challenges, Munsamy confirmed the entity has deployed 50 roaming water trucks and 56 water tanks.

TimesLIVE

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