Massive clean water wastage hit Johannesburg amidst drought

20 Sep 2016

Ujuh Correspondent 

While Johannesburg residents have been warned to use water sparingly and have been hit by punitively high restrictive tariffs as a result of severe drought conditions, zillions of gallons of clean water are going to waste due to unattended industrial scale leakages in residential areas.

One such leakage was caught over the past weekend in a north-eastern suburb of Johannesburg, Ranburg, Windsor East. As reflected in the embedded video, water was bursting out of a damaged pipe on the corner of Beatrice and Lords in Windsor East, continuously for about two days. The damage seems to have been caused by a private contractor digging trenches to lay a fibre optic cable.

One week ago, the City of Johannesburg imposed punitive water tariffs and reinforced Level 2 water restrictions.

The city said it has been ordered by the Department of Water and Sanitation to cut water usage by 15%. This is because the water levels in the Integrated Vaal River System have dropped below the threshold level of 60% while the Vaal Dam is at 35%.

Our amateurish and conservative calculation shows that the negligence which left the water to run for the whole of Saturday and half of Sunday has cost Johannesburg dearly.

The damaged pipe on the corner of Beatrice and Lords was spilling water at an approximate rate of 20 100 litres per hour. In 36 hours, about 723 600 litres of clean water was wasted. This amount of water is enough to cater for the monthly water needs of about 25 households.

The big question now is; will there be consequences for this gross negligence. If the City of Johannesburg statement is anything to go by, the area affected by this massive leak will suffer water supply outage. This is based on the statement that, “if the restrictive measures are not effective in reducing demand by 15% then the Johannesburg water system will face the risk of outages. This has further knock–on effects as outages allow air into the system, which causes a hammer and an increased likelihood of bursts. So, we request residents to take this seriously.”

The authorities have given an impression that strict water usage restriction will be religiously implemented by Johannesburg Water and cannot be robbed. “It (the restriction) will be managed in a dynamic manner as the supply areas have different sensitivity characteristics and a straight 15% across all meters will cause outages in some areas.”

Sliding scale restrictive tariffs were imposed which meant that the more water you use above certain thresholds, the higher the tariff. 10% is added to the normal tariff on consumption of between 20 000 litres and 30 000 litres/month; 20% on consumption between 30 000 and 40 000 litres/month; and 30% on consumption above 40 000 litres/month.

On imposing the restriction the City of Johannesburg had promised to “step up programmes to manage water leakages and usage.” This was meant to transpire through “active leakage detection and repair teams and water network pressure modulation.” This could save about 29.6 billion litres per year wasted in leakages like the one experienced in Windsor East. It has been calculated that water leaks cost the Gauteng province about R8bn per year.

This piece was lifted from our sister publication

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