‘Water shortage under control ... for now’

2014-09-27 09:34

The water shortage “crisis” is under control for now, the parliamentary portfolio committee on water and sanitation has heard.

Rand Water’s Palmiet pump station pumps water to the Klipriviersberg reservoirs, which were steadily filling their sub-reservoirs, namely Brakfontein, Klipfontein, Germiston, Meyers Hill and North Ridge.

The committee was in Joburg yesterday to gain understanding and find solutions to the water shortages experienced in Gauteng.

During a tour of the pump station and the Rand Water controlling centre near Glenvista, south of Joburg, the committee was told that most affected areas had running water again.

The North Ridge reservoir, which supplies Sunnyridge in Germiston, was still experiencing shortages yesterday afternoon.

Rand Water operations manager Matsobane Masebe said the pump station pumped 1?660 megalitres of water daily, even though it had the capacity to hold 2?600. This was because the infrastructure could not handle more than 1?660 megalitres.

Masebe said copper cables from an Eskom power station in Alrode had been stolen, which led to the shortages. The sub-station supplies power to the pump station.

The Klipriviersberg reservoir supplies water to areas between Germiston and Pretoria.

He said getting a generator was not a practical solution because the pump station used up to 700 megawatts of electricity to pump the water.

He said the company was looking at using alternative methods of receiving power, or using more than one power source.

He said people were not aware of how closely electricity was linked to the supply of water.

“We are in that crisis where energy and water intertwine ... This is an eye-opener for everyone,” he told the committee.

This was the first time Rand Water had experienced a shortage of this extent in 110 years, he said.

“We’ve never had a crisis of this magnitude.”

As soon as the power was back at the pumping station, the water would flow at 100%, Masebe said.

The higher the demand for water, the slower Rand Water would be at supplying their backed-up demand.

The computer screens in the control centre room showed a list of all 58 reservoirs that Rand Water supplied.

Reservoirs whose names were in white or light green were considered stable, while those flashing red were considered critically low.

Officials hoped that by Monday all water problems would have been resolved.

Committee chairperson Mlungisi Johnson said he was glad there was no water crisis.

“We heard from the operators that copper theft is a major issue.

“With Gauteng being the economic hub of not only the country, but the continent, any dysfunctionality will ... easily erupt into conflict in societies.”

He said the theft of infrastructure, the maintenance of facilities, a new water plan and the protection of electrical power supply to the pumping station were matters that needed to be looked into.

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