Joburg playing catch up with water infrastructure as population grew by 2.5m in 5 years – mayor

  • Johannesburg Mayor Sello Dada Morero said expanding the water infrastructure will combat the city’s water challenges. 
  • He made a site visit to reservoirs and water towers at Hursthill, Brixton, Crown Mines, and Crosby on Thursday. 
  • The mayor said work is being done to address the problem, however, this process would take time. 

Population growth in Johannesburg over the past five years from 4 million to 6.5 million without increased capacity of the infrastructure means the city is now playing catch up.

This is also a contributing factor to the water woes in the western and southern parts of the metro, according to Mayor Sello Dada Morero.

Morero said expanding infrastructure and reservoirs to increase water capacity was the next step in dealing with the water supply challenges.

He’s also calling for a “water revolution”, touting the use of JoJo tanks to help preserve water for drinking and cooking and relying on rainwater for domestic washing, gardening and washing cars.

READ | Gauteng’s three biggest metros now hit with water cuts as reservoirs run dry while heatwave rolls on

On Thursday Morero held a site inspection at reservoirs and water towers in Hursthill, Brixton, Crown Mines and Crosby.

The Johannesburg metro was hard hit this week by severe water supply challenges. Many residents and businesses faced low water pressure and water cuts after Rand Water throttled its water supply.


Mayor Sello Dada Morero conducts inspects Joburg’s water infrastructure. He’s pictured with Managing Director of Joburg Water, Ntshavheni Mukwevho.
Gallo Images Gallo Images/Papi Morake

“Part of what we want to do is improve on infrastructure investment to try and increase capacity. This will also mean renewing the infrastructure. While we know this will require a lot of money and resources, we may have to start raising money and cooperating with the Department of Water Affairs so we have money for these projects,” said Morero.

The need comes after an increase in population in the city over the past five years, without increased capacity of the infrastructure, he explained.

He said:

The reality is that we need to expand the infrastructure. In the past five years, the population of Johannesburg has grown from 4 million and is now sitting at 6.5 million. This growth was so quick, and we now need to catch up with the increasing capacity and infrastructure.

He said there was a budget in place to expand one of the reservoirs in the area, “but at most we are looking at a R1-billion infrastructure investment programme that will include all infrastructure, including water”.

“We want to ensure that as soon as the systems are up and running, the residents will have an uninterrupted water supply. But it is also important that as long as there is no tripping on the side of Rand Water, we think we will be fine, and we will be able to restore the water much quicker.”

The challenges explained

According to Joburg Water’s Logan Moonsamy, the system works in tandem with three reservoir systems: Hursthill reservoir system, Crosby reservoir – which consists of a reservoir and a pump station – and the Brixton system that consists of a reservoir and a water tower fed off a pump station.

He said all three were supplied from one common source, which came from Rand Water. The connection meter is called the Commando Road meter.


Mayor Sello Morero leads an inspection of Joburg’s water infrastructure on Thursday.
Gallo Images Gallo Images/Papi Morake

If there was reduced or no flow of water coming in from the Rand Water side, Moonsamy said it would ultimately affect the three reservoirs that work in tandem.

“We have been having on and off challenges that has been become apparent since the middle of September, where Rand Water has had numerous operational challenges that affected their Suikerbos treatment plant.

“When they had power trips because of Eskom power failures, it affected their ability to distribute the required volume of water needed to come through to the Commando Road system. As a result our reservoirs went down to empty or near empty.

“When these reservoirs go down, we are unable to feed our customers [and] taps run dry,” said Moonsamy.

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He said the water system did not function like electricity where there was an on and off switch.

“Water is supplied through a long series of a pipelines. If a reservoir goes low or empty it takes days or weeks to recover that storage because a reservoir is meant to give reserved storage. If you do not have reserved storage you first need to build up reserve storage to feed water to consumers,” he explained.

The operation challenges experienced by Rand Water had a ripple effect in that the water systems then run low to empty, affecting the water supply system.

Despite the chain of cause and effect brought on by the water supply challenges, residents were optimistic about the plan.

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