Gauteng water crisis: Now for water shedding

2014-09-28 15:00

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Gauteng residents, glumly accustomed to load shedding, are about to learn a new term: load shifting.

On Friday afternoon, Water Affairs and Sanitation ­Minister Nomvula Mokonyane outlined a plan after more than a week of dry taps.

“Rand Water has resolved to use load shifting, which will see communities that have been without water getting a supply at fixed intervals until full water supply returns to normal,” she said.

This means shifting water from an area that has normal supply to one with no water.

“While the water distribution from the system is ­redirected, communities from which water is blocked will be provided for by water tankers.”

Residents who have complained this week that they haven’t been told what was happening, have been promised feedback four times a day through a ­helpline and SABC radio stations.

Mokonyane promised that Rand Water would do better, and had stern words for thirsty residents: use water “sparingly”, don’t steal cables and don’t damage water infrastructure.

The blame game continued this week. Rand Water blamed Eskom, and the power utility blamed cable thieves for causing a power failure that crippled the Eikenhof and Palmiet pump stations in Joburg’s south.

When pump stations fail, reservoirs can’t be filled.

Eikenhof, which supplies the western and southern parts of Gauteng, dropped last Tuesday.

On Monday Palmiet was hit, and the outages spread to the north and east of the province. Palmiet supplies Gauteng’s three metros – Joburg, Ekurhuleni and Tshwane.

Rand Water’s operations manager, Matsobane Masebe, told Parliament’s committee on water and sanitation on Friday that Eskom should be blamed.

“There was no alternative power transmission and the pump could not function.

When the power was eventually restored, the Palmiet pump ­station could not pump enough water to all the reservoirs. We can’t say when the reservoirs will reach a desirable capacity because the station is only able to pump 1?600?megalitres a day,” said Masebe.

He said it was “impossible” to have a back-up plan because the pump stations relied on Eskom’s supply.

“We could look into alternative power transmissions from independent suppliers, but this cannot happen overnight.”

Masebe ruled out the idea of having generators as back-ups – despite the fact that power outages are becoming the rule rather than the exception.

“The generator needed for this magnitude of power transmission is ­expensive and probably not feasible.”

.?The Rand Water helpline number is 0860?10?10?60

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