“To sit without power is one thing, but to sit without water is unbearable.”
This is what Cilliers Brink, mayor of Tshwane, says about the ongoing water outages over large parts of the city in the past week.
Brink says the problem arose this past weekend when Rand Water – according to him at short notice – informed the metro council that power outages were negatively affecting its water supply capacity.
“Our municipality depends on Rand Water for more than 70% of the water we supply to our consumers. When Rand Water does not pump water to our reservoirs, or if their water pressure is limited, we have water problems in Pretoria,” says Brink.
Just a few months ago, numerous neighborhoods in the east of Pretoria also sat without water for days and since December several similar cases – where Rand Water’s water supply to Tshwane and other municipalities were interrupted without warning – have been experienced.
“Last week, water was restricted to Soshanguve. We complained about it, after which the water supply was restored, without any explanation of the situation,” says Brink.
“When we met with the management of Rand Water in April, it was explained to us that high levels of load shedding, as well as cable theft, are the main cause.
“Of course we understand this, but Rand Water also has an obligation to put assistance plans in place; it cannot be that the water supply to thousands and even hundreds of thousands of households can be affected for days on end by a single event.”
According to Brink, the city council specifically asked Rand Water on two issues to make Tshwane more resilient to water outages: firstly that Rand Water share the telemetry on its reservoirs (ie how full it is at any given time) with the metro and secondly that Rand Water will inform the municipality in good time about any problems that arise so that contingency plans can be put in place.
“Despite these pleas, we still find ourselves on the receiving end of Rand Water’s late notices. Rand Water’s letter about power outages was received when the reservoirs on our side had already started to empty,” says Brink.
Although the city council is in constant discussion with Rand Water about the water supply issues, Themba Fosi, Tshwane’s mayoral committee member for utilities, says that no accurate or up-to-date information is received from the bulk water supplier.
“Senzo Mchunu, the minister of water and sanitation, has called an emergency meeting on the water supply issues in the province with the MEC of cooperative government and traditional affairs (Cogta) for Tuesday afternoon.”
According to Fosi, the challenges with Rand Water will also be discussed then.
Brink says he sent a message to Rand Water’s CEO on Tuesday morning to make it clear that if the water supply to Tshwane is not restored, it could cause a crisis in the capital. He also asked that the city no longer be kept in the dark about the true state of affairs at Rand Water.
“On Tuesday, I will also consult legal advisers and water experts to determine what Tshwane can do to be more resilient against the problems at Rand Water.
“Despite the public obligation on Rand Water to continuously share the reservoir levels with the city, this is not happening. This makes it impossible for us to deal with the shortages.
“We can only conclude that Rand Water has internal supply problems and cannot balance the supply to the city. The result is that as one reservoir recovers sufficiently, another reservoir’s supply capacity decreases,” says Fosi.
The following reservoirs are currently causing major challenges for the city:
- Klapperkop North and South
- Lotus Gardens
- Hill resort
- Mnandi South
- Bakenkop East and West and Bakenkop Tower
- Sunderland Ridge
- salvo head
According to Fosi, the municipality conducted tests on incoming Rand Water supply lines and found a pressure reading of 0% on many of the above reservoirs.
The city has already sent water tankers to the affected areas.
“The city apologizes for the inconvenience caused by the water supply issues.
“We will do everything in our power to tackle these challenges as soon as possible. In the meantime, we appeal to residents who do have water to please use it sparingly,” says Brink.