It is almost here:Water-shedding

If you think load-shedding is bad,brace yourself for water-shedding…coming to a tap near you. South Africa is fast running out of water,with the worst drought since 1992 leaving dams at critical levels and diminishing rivers and streams. By NIKI MOORE.

The reason for any potential water shedding is almost a mirror image of why we have load-shedding. Since 1994,millions of people have been added to the water grid with very little thought being given to increasing the capacity of water storage or water intake plants. Combined with mismanagement of water,non-payment for water,huge water wastage through lack of maintenance and neglect,and poor governance through corruption,we are facing a high noon of water shortages that might start affecting us in as soon as a few months.

Smaller municipalities are going to be hit first,and hardest. The Kannaland Municipality (Caltizdorp) has a month of water left. Parts of KZN – northern Ethekwini,the South Coast,the rural north – are facing water restrictions as dams dry up. Much of South Africa is about to be declared an official drought zone. Even where water utilities have access to adequate water supplies – such as the Lesotho Highlands Water Scheme and the Midmar Dam – the strain will be immense. Water will have to be pumped from large dams to smaller dams;pollution will increase in rivers and dams as the water level decreases,water tables will drop as people pump more from boreholes.

While the current crisis can be blamed on the severe drought,there is a large element of bad governance as well. Twenty years of municipal mismanagement has come home to roost,meaning that between 50% and 70% of our fresh water is being wasted through burst pipes,malfunctioning pumps,broken taps and reckless water use (the ‘acceptable’global figure for non-revenue water is 30%). Adding to our water woes is an historical accumulation of bad waste-water treatment:fully half of our waste-treatment plants are operating below average standards and fully a third are critical. Fresh water is needed to flush out the pollution of raw sewage oozing into our dams and rivers,and a drought will concentrate effluent to dangerous levels.

Leading the water-shedding charge is the Ugu district municipality in southern KZN,where it was announced through the local newspaper on 4 June that some areas would have water ‘restrictors’installed while in other areas there would be scheduled water interruptions. The two local municipalities hardest hit would be Umuziwabantu (Harding) and Vulamehlo (inland from Pennington).

In order to prevent more widespread water shedding,Ugu is asking households and businesses to reduce their water consumption by 30%. This is bad news for the region’s most important industry:tourism. Holiday-makers don’t like unflushable toilets and dry taps.

But the water shortage is nothing new. For the last ten years,the South Coast has experienced water problems during peak holiday season as the influx of visitors puts a strain on the water grid. The rainy season has usually been counted on to refill the dams and flush out the pollution,but this year the rains did not arrive. What did arrive:a huge headache for the South Coast’s water utility,the Ugu District Municipality.

“The main problem,” says the DA Ugu South Constituency Head Dr Rishigen Viranna,“is that for the last twenty years Ugu has been expanding water supply to rural areas and townships,and adding thousands of users to the water grid,which is its mandate. The DA supports that,except that they have not planned to upgrade the main water sources,which are two water plants on the Umzimkulu and Umtamvuma Rivers. As more people have been using water,the capacity of the two plants has come under more and more strain. The two plants supply 28Ml of water per day. In peak season they run over capacity at 38Ml of water per day. But the Ugu region needs 40 Ml of water per day at all times. With the plants running at full capacity all the time,there is no downtime for repair or maintenance.”

AfriForum has also taken on the water crisis in Ugu. “Months ago we asked the Ugu District for their water maintenance plan,” says Hibiscus Coast AfriForum representative Wessel Pretorius. “But either they don’t have one,or they just don’t want us to see it. We actually wanted to help. We can call on the expertise of around 80 retired engineers and technical experts here on the Hibiscus Coast,but they don’t want to work with us.”

At the moment the three dams in Ugu are less than half full and thousands of people receive water from tankers as their only source. Towns such as Harding and Murchison,just outside Port Shepstone,had water riots earlier this year because of water shortages. (The real reason,says locals in Harding,is that frustration about poor service delivery and the lack of water finally overflowed when it was revealed that the mayor had bought herself a new car for R1 million).

“We have been disappointed with poor water supply for a long time,” says Murchison local resident Samkelo Ndwalane. “Water comes on for only a few hours a day,and then it is dirty and full of mud. In July last year,after several weeks for no water,a group of us got together and asked the mayor,ND Gumede,to come and see us to explain. She did not come. The community got angry and wanted to close the N2,but instead we asked the local chief to request the mayor to visit. Again she did not come. By that time the community was very angry. There were about 5,000 of the people by then,and they decided to close the N2.” The highway was closed for a week.

Service delivery protests around the country have begun to focus more and more on water supply. Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said in a breakfast briefing on May 20 2013 that unless our water resources were better used,there was a risk of ‘running out of fresh water’. The following day she told Parliament that the dangers of a water shortage had been exaggerated and that ‘South Africa will not run out of water in the next 100 years.’

But scarcity of water depends almost entirely on where you live. Mature and functioning water supply systems,such as Rand Water and Umgeni Water,which serve the large metros of Gauteng and KZN respectively,have multiple water sources in case of drought. The real problems – and the potential for massive civil unrest over a lack of water – lies in the smaller municipalities where a single or finite water source has been compromised by poor management and corruption.

For instance,the Ugu district actually has plenty of water. The area is bracketed by two massive rivers. There are a number of dams that can be topped up. It is a lack of planning that has created the current shortage.

A staff member at the Ugu head-office,who refused to be named,said that the Ugu water management was extremely worried about the water shortage. “They are probably more concerned than the residents themselves,” he said. “They have a long-term plan,a short-term plan,and a medium-term plan.” However,it was impossible to find out what this plan was,as neither the municipal manager DD Naidoo,the Head of Services for Water and Sanitation Lungile Cele,or the municipal spokesman Francis Zama,were available for comment.

“Ugu is doing their best and things are improving,” said the head of the Hibiscus Coast Ratepayers Association Bruce Hulley,“despite a twenty-year backlog of neglect. Things are getting better.”

The same cannot be said for other areas in the country such as North West,Limpopo and Mpumalanga,where water supply has broken down completely and the population rely on expensive water trucks. In some cases,such as Brits,the water plant has allegedly been deliberately sabotaged so that councillors can benefit from water-trucking tenders. In Mpumalanga,and especially Ermelo,the problem is non-existent maintenance of infrastructure so that water is maddeningly sporadic through constant burst pipes. A countrywide problem is standpipes in rural areas and townships that are either broken,stolen or simply left running until reservoirs run dry.

The majority of township and rural residents declare that they would not mind paying for water as long as a secure and reliable source is provided. Whether this declaration will stand the test of billing remains to be seen,but it is certainly true that many people pay for water anyway…in many rural areas there is a brisk trade from the owner of a borehole selling water to the neighbouring community,or a local chief who holds the keys to the taps.

Last month the Department of Water Affairs launched Water Week,stressing the importance of conserving water in the face of a national shortage this year. Their theme was ‘What if this were the last drop’. That is a sobering thought for anyone who has suddenly found a dry tap due to a pipe burst,and it is a daily reality for millions of people throughout South Africa. It could become a daily reality for us all.


Brace for water shortages

save waterBrace for water shortages as drought cuts reserves.  Water demand to outstrip supply as early as 2025.

South Africa is facing water shortages after the worst drought since 1992 cut dam levels by 12% from a year earlier as most of the country enters its four-month dry season.

Drought in eastern and central South Africa around the turn of the year has slashed corn and sugar output and may trigger water shortages for homes and businesses. Weaker river flow also threatens water quality. South Africa is the 30th-driest nation on Earth,according to the government,which expects water demand to outstrip supply as early as 2025.

“Water will definitely be at a premium over the next few months,” said Sputnik Ratau,a spokesman for the Department of Water Affairs. Toward the end of the dry season “we will be in an even more dire situation in terms of available water.”

The country’s dams are 79.2% full this week,down from 90.1% a year earlier,according to data on the DWA’s website. Ratau didn’t know
Continue reading Brace for water shortages

Raw sewerage on its way to the Vaal Dam

Raw sewageA project which will pump raw sewerage into the Vaal Dam is in an advanced stage,James Letuka,a DA member of the Free State provincial legislature,told News24.

After receiving a complaint from local councillors,Letuka visited Deneysville and saw the pipes being laid.

The pipes lead directly from the sewerage system to the dam.

“I saw it with my own eyes. The people working on the pipeline were very busy and I could see they were hurrying to get the job done. This is unacceptable,” Letuka said.
Continue reading Raw sewerage on its way to the Vaal Dam

South Africa’s taps are running dry

tap-waterAccording to the former minister of Water and Environmental Affairs,Edna Molewa South Africa has fully allocated 98 per cent of the county’s water source and this means that future generations in the country will only have 2 per cent of water at their disposal.

Steve Hedden,researcher at the Institute of Security Studies (ISS) said that the current demand for water exceeds the supply and it is expected that the gap between the two will grow wider in the next 20 years.

“The difference between water and everything else is that there is no substitute,” said Hedden.

“The sectors that are going to be hit first [by the dwindling water supply] and probably the hardest are the vulnerable sectors,that being agriculture.”
Continue reading South Africa’s taps are running dry

Water disruptions cancelled

johannesburgJohannesburg Water has informed residents that water disruptions scheduled to take place this week have been cancelled.

Johannesburg Water spokesperson Eleanor Mavimbela told Fin24 that the department has “a few logistical issues that need to be sorted before a new date will be set out”.

READ: Joburg suburbs can expect 2-day water disruption

Planned water disruption scheduled to take place from 07:00 on April 21 to 07:00 on April 23 for infrastructure upgrades in Parktown,Houghton,Melrose and surrounding areas has been cancelled until further notice.
Continue reading Water disruptions cancelled

Rainwater harvesting can boost water security

JoJo tankRainwater harvesting (RWH) can boost water security in South Africa,but water-related legislation does not provide a clear legal framework for its adoption,hampering national expansion.

This is according to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research catchment hydrologist and senior researcher Dr Jean-Marc Mwenge Kahinda,who tells Engineering News that the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) should establish a clearly defined national RWH legal framework and produce guidelines using existing knowledge.

RWH involves the small-scale collection,capture and storage of rainwater runoff for various productive purposes,including irrigation,drinking and domestic use. Mwenge Kahinda adds that the legal framework and guidelines should be distributed and enforced using by-laws,with RWH programmes supporting the national framework.

Stellenbosch University vice rector for research and innovation professor Eugene Cloete agrees that RWH should be adopted on a national scale and cites Australia as a good example of its adoption,as the country has legalised RWH in many of its large cities. He notes that,while RWH is commer- cialised in South Africa,the uptake has been slow,owing to the low cost of water in cities and the easy access to this resource.

The DWS’s water services community database indicates that fewer than 1% of households use rainwater as their primary water source for domestic needs,an underuse of RWH.

However,Cloete warns that,if water- shedding becomes a reality,should the country run out of the limited water supply it has,there will be a guaranteed uptake of RWH.


Clear Benefits:

Polyethylene plastic storage tanks manufacturer JoJo Tanks RWH specialist Patrick Rosslee says there has been a year-on-year increase in demand for information on RWH,as well as a surge in the sales of RWH systems.

JoJo Tanks has trained and supports about 40 preferred rainwater installers across the country to keep up with the demand. Rosslee believes that RWH should be adopted nationwide by the industrial,commercial and residential sectors.

“Depending on the internal household use of water,between 30% and 50% of this type of use does not need to be of potable or drinkable quality and,if rainwater was used to replace that water supply,it would reduce municipal water demand by about 30%,” he said.

RWH can be used for irrigation and household use. Under extreme circumstances and with the properly designed system,it can also be used to replace drinkable water.

Rosslee says the quality of rainwater is “relatively unpolluted” and that it is a “soft” water source,which means that,for applications such as washing machines and dishwashers,it is a more effective water source of cleaning,as soaps would sud better.

However,he agrees with Mwenge Kahinda that government should provide clearer national guidelines regarding rebates and connections,which would result in a massive surge in interest and,in turn,a greater roll-out of RWH systems nationwide.

Rosslee adds that RWH could be financially viable if government offered rebates on water tanks and installations. The ‘State of Green Technologies in South Africa’ report,released by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) last year,for which Cloete has conducted research,states that the provision of potable water for all South Africans presents a challenge,as there are millions of people without access to a potable water supply. The report cites RWH as one of the solutions to mitigate water scarcity,thereby creating more potable water,with the added advantages of households managing their water directly and water being provided at or near the point of use.

Further,it suggests that RWH could potentially create 1 275 long-term direct employment opportunities and 181 long-term direct manufacturing employment opportunities,Mwenge Kahinda adds that the potential benefits of RWH also include reduced sewage outfall,fewer sewage treatment works and less capital for expensive dam construction,as well as a decrease in demand for new and available water during future water shortages.

While RWH catchment systems are located predominately in private homes and rural areas,2012 statistics indicated that government had distributed water tanks to the Eastern Cape,Limpopo,KwaZulu-Natal,the Free State and the Western Cape.


Health Hazards?

Although the chemical quality of rainwater is generally acceptable for nonhuman consumption,its microbiological quality does not meet potable standards,says the ASSAf report.

Cloete adds that,as a result,there is a risk of spreading water-related diseases and,therefore,education to avoid water contamination is necessary.

“Generally,harvested rainwater is contaminated with E.coli,faecal coliforms,enterococci and other bacterial pathogens,including legionella. “Depending on the roof type that is used as the catchment area,and amount of chemicals present,including anions and cations,might also exceed the South African drinking-water guidelines.”

He adds that,therefore,research needs to focus on the implementation of point-of-use treatment systems to remove or reduce the level of microbial and chemical contamination.

Pharmaceutical chemistry lecturer Roman Tandlich adds that water and wastewater treatment is often inadequate in rural areas,and that municipal water supply is often interrupted for months at a time.

To remedy this situation,the installation of a rainwater harvesting system can help maintain the potable water supply,he says.


Local Challenges:

Rosslee states that between 30% and 50% of municipal water in South Africa is lost before it reaches the end-user,which he attributes to neglected infrastructure.

The country also has to deal with water pollution challenges that are exacerbated by commercial and industrial water users. There is also a lack of general awareness about where water comes from,how much it costs and how much is available.

Cloete notes that South Africans rely predominately on rivers,dams and underground water sources for their water supply.  The 2011 South African National Census indicated that there are more than 14-million households in South Africa and if they collected only 1 000 ℓ of rainwater collectively,it would make 14-million cubic metres of water available that would otherwise have flowed into rivers.

“In areas that are not serviced by centralised water supply systems,mostly rural and informal settlements,the water challenge is a reality. In most urban areas,however,the water challenge remains a news headline. We are hardly water savvy,” says Mwenge Kahinda.

By:Sashnee Moodley

Edited by:Martin Zhuwakinyu

Eco-H2o is a water conservation company that would be able to assist you with rainwater harvesting systems, greywater reuse systems, back-up water supply systems, pool back-wash recycling systems and toilet flushing systems.   When you have our systems installed in your home not only could you reduce your water bill by up to 90%,you will also never be without water.  We are also suppliers of JoJo water tanks.

Still No water!

TapJohannesburg –The restoration of water in Gauteng will be gradual and people should use water sparingly,Rand Water said on Sunday.

“When water is restored it is gradual;we will not restore water in all areas at the same time,”spokesperson Justice Mohale said.

“We know we do have people who do not have water. Let’s try conserve a bit because we do have people who don’t use water discreetly…Please just wait a bit until we normalise the situation.”

Mohale said that throughout the week water levels in reservoirs had been fluctuating,which was normal.
Continue reading Still No water!

Kids get water with the help of Miss Earth

As an ambassador for our environment,climate change issues as well as water and food security,it brings me great joy to be part of a project such as this one during our National Environment Month (June). I believe it is because of such events and collaborations that we are able to highlight the important environmental issues that face our country. I am proud to carry the work,ethos and values of the Miss Earth organization as we work together to build a more sustainable green and healthy future for South Africa.”

Ashanti Mbanga,Miss Earth South Africa

Thanks to Miss Earth and JoJo Tanks,the kids of Diakonia Aids Ministry (DAM) in Central Western Jabavu,Soweto will now have water in tank and on tap!  “Water is scarce here as we depend on the supply from the municipality and we end up paying a lot of money,which could have been used in our other departments. The donation  of a 5000L rainwater harvesting tank from Miss Earth and JoJo Tanks will go a long way in conserving rain water that would simply wash away. Water is crucial to growing our vegetables and a tank close to our vegetable garden will make an important difference to what we can produce.” explains project manager Rev. Selby Mugivhi.  “The vegetables will be used to provide the Diakonia orphans and vulnerable children in need of a safe and caring environment with much needed balanced meals. The money saved from the municipal bill will then be allocated to DAM’s other departments that cover Home Based Care,Education and Training,Support Group etc.”

JoJo Tanks managing director,Rod Cairns says the company is honoured to be involved with a project where the community has shown unbelievable determination and dedication to improve the lives of their children.  “At JoJo Tanks we are also passionate about the role we should play in conserving our planet’s limited resources.  Our association with Miss Earth gives us an excellent opportunity to make a real difference and we look forward to the extension of the gardens – the mothers,the children and the community have already achieved so much on their own… imagine what they can still achieve with ongoing support from people like us,the community and Miss Earth!”

Mr Cairns and Rev. Mugivhi agree that saving water should be a way of life,“The conservation and beneficial use of rainwater by installing rainwater tanks could grant relief to millions of disadvantaged South Africans and provide a cost-effective and convenient way to have water security. Let’s work together to help save our thirsty world!”

Rainwater Harvesting

Water Facts


  • Some 1.1 billion people,or 18 % of the word’s population,lack access to safe drinking water,and over 2.4 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation.
  • More than 2.2 million people in developing countries,most of them children,die each year from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water,inadequate sanitation.
    Continue reading Rainwater Harvesting

High quantities of uranium,arsenic and sulphuric acid found in streams and rivers.

Acid waterHigh quantities of uranium,arsenic,sulphuric acid and other toxic materials found in streams and rivers.

South Africa’s anti-corruption ombudsman has begun a probe into water pollution allegedly caused by mining companies.

The inquiry by the Public Protector is in its early stages,spokesman Oupa Segalwe said by e-mail.

“The investigation has to do with alleged pollution of water as a result of mining operations in a number of provinces,” Segalwe said.
Continue reading High quantities of uranium,arsenic and sulphuric acid found in streams and rivers.