The best and worst of our water: Ekurhuleni ­Metro

2012-05-12 15:11

South Africa’s best glass of tap ­water is to be found on Gauteng’s East Rand, in the Ekurhuleni ­Metro.

“I’ve beaten all the municipalities. I am extremely happy. But our first place doesn’t mean we don’t have challenges,” says Ekurhuleni’s water chief, Aubrey Nxumalo.

“We are proud of our quality of water health. We have not had a ­water crisis for a number of years,” he says. Nxumalo attributes the number-one rating to responsible leadership.

“We have a water-demand ­management strategy in place and we do the right things. We monitor and evaluate more than regularly and do spot checks.”

Ekurhuleni has received a Platinum Blue Drop Award for three consecutive years and jumped from fourth position in 2011 to take the honours from last year’s ­winner, the City of Joburg.

“Johannesburg has 3 000 people working on its water. I have only 1 500,” says Nxumalo. “But we get the most out of our people. I signed a performance-management contract and we are in the process of getting everyone performance contracts in Ekurhuleni.”

Nxumalo is quick to admit that, as in Johannesburg, it is Rand ­Water that ultimately supplies the Gauteng municipalities with excellent drinking water.

Municipalities making use of ­water boards to manage their drinking water systems tend to have better-quality drinking water, those who compiled the Blue Drop report found. The four municipalities that use Rand Water are rated in the top 10 this year.

“Rand Water plays a big role and I pay them R145 million every month for that excellent water,” Nxumalo says.

“R40 million of that water is lost to leaks – R40 million that goes down the drain. That is our municipality’s biggest challenge – the ­water loss.” He says Ekurhuleni is sitting on 39% “unaccounted for water losses”.

“Especially in the informal settlements, we lose a lot of water from taps running,” he says. “We have embarked on a 10-year ­programme that will see us replace faulty meters, educate people about conserving water and ­finding leaks.”

This includes installing “super water meters” which will detect leaks and which can be read ­electronically. Ekurhuleni is also assisted by a culture of payment, where more than 90% of residents pay their water bills.
Nxumalo is also proud that the municipality gives nine kilolitres of water a month to indigent households, instead of the prescribed national six kilolitres.

Ekurhuleni, however, is an old municipality with old water infrastructure.

“Our town is more than 100 years old and the infrastructure is not coping. Rusty pipes and leaking infrastructure is my biggest headache,” he says.

Ekurhuleni needs R2 billion to fix the old equipment which is money it simply doesn’t have.

For now, says Nxumalo, they take the budget money they receive and do as much as they can in “dribs and drabs”.

“We take it year by year,” he says.

GRAPHIC: The best and worst of our water countrywide

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