Joburg water crisis: Small businesses, old age homes use drums, bottles of water to get by

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  • Residents, businesses and old age homes are trying to find ways to survive amid water outages in parts of Gauteng. 
  • People in Ormonde, Johannesburg have used the refilling five-litre bottles, relying on water tankers, using disposable plates or cups, and turning to boreholes as some water sources.
  • But for a local laundry service, there are few alternatives.

As if load shedding isn't enough of a challenge, small businesses and old age homes in Johannesburg have to get by with little or no water amid outages in parts of Gauteng.

In Ormonde, reactive plans include filling up drums and five-litre bottles with water that can be used to flush toilets, queuing to fetch water from boreholes, or relying on roaming mobile water tankers for water that can be used for cooking, drinking, cleaning and bathing.

A Mochachos manager, Hassen Cassim, said he drives 15km from the restaurant to his home, which has water, so that he can get 200 litres for the eatery and its neighbours.

His efforts helped to "relieve some pressure in the restaurant... [and it] helped clean the floors and keep the place clean".

In addition, the restaurant uses disposable plates and cups for customers who choose to eat in.

On Monday afternoon, he said, the restaurant experienced water pressure issues, and by Tuesday, they had no water at all.

He said:

This is where customers come to enjoy their meal, but because there is no water available, it hampers our business.

"We need water to produce food, clean and mop the place and clean the oven that we use to make some of the food. At times, we can't serve customers with plates and glasses because we need water to wash them," he said.

With the water tankers promised by Johannesburg Water, residents from the retirement home could get access to water on Wednesday.

It's not the first time the area has faced a water crisis.

"During Covid-19 times, we had a pipe issue that burst, which left us without water for 48 hours, and even then, we still had to re-adjust...

"But the biggest trouble always comes when a customer needs to use the bathroom, which we cannot allow because we can't flush the toilets," he said.

READ | Joburg water crisis: Two public hospitals struggling, residents fuming as reservoirs run dry

Cassim said he is forced to consider lasting alternatives, like he did with load shedding.

"When load shedding started, we as businesspeople had to invest in generators as alternative power solutions to keep us operational. Now with if there is going to be water shedding, we have to look at water alternatives like JoJo tanks, water pumps or even boreholes," he added

"There is a borehole at the mosque, just across the road from the restaurant, where most people go when there is no water. Yesterday (Wednesday) the line was long as people came with buckets to fill up water," he said.

An employee at the Nissan car dealership in Ormonde, which has a borehole, said it has been functional for more than two years and has been open for residents in the area who need it.

"We always knew that this moment would come, so we spent a lot of money drilling the borehole and putting filtration systems into it, and since then, we have not been affected, and we have been able to help community members who come fetch water here.

"People in the area know we have a borehole, so when they have challenges with water, they come here to fill up their buckets, and we do not charge them at all," the employee, who refused to be named, said.

On Wednesday, Johannesburg Water released a statement to say that a temporary alternative water supply source would be at Crown Gardens.

Residents queuing in line to fetch water from a tank inside Crown Gardens Clinic.
News24 Alfonso Nqunjana, News24
Despite the country enduring its most intensive load shedding year, Gauteng sees itself in another downtime with a water crisis plaguing the province intermittently for the past two weeks.
News24 Alfonso Nqunjana, News24

Annie Burger retirement village in Crown Gardens has been without water since the weekend.

"We are old people. Someone came today to bring water, but when you run out, you must take your bucket, refill water and carry it.

"Some people can't manage because they're frail. But the tanker came around at 12:00 today, so we were able to refill our buckets, which has also helped for washing up and flushing the toilet," one resident, Ranjeni Odayar, said.

The 74-year-old woman, who has trouble breathing after she contracted Covid-19, said it was a difficult time.

She felt there was no one to complain to and that politicians came and went without honouring their promises.

"My grandson brought me 10 litres of water from their house, and I have been using that for cooking and drinking.

"Sometime back when we also had problems with water, I collected five-litre water bottles, which I have since filled up with water and left outside, covered. I have been using [it] to flush the toilet. So, I can say I have prepared myself for this." 

Residents in Crown Gardens queuing in line outside Cassim's house from 06:00 to fetch borehole water.

For laundromats, the situation is even direr.

Babi Vahed, the owner of Housekeeping on Crownwood laundry service, said: "Closing shop is not an option. So, we keep our doors open but without water, we cannot do our turnaround time like we used to because there are loads in the queue."

Johannesburg Mayor Sello Dada Morero conducted site inspections at reservoirs and towers on Thursday morning.

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