Yesterday, I spent the afternoon in Linmeyer and South Hills, Johannesburg, visiting residents that have been consistently affected by water outages in the area.
The South Hills water tower which supplies water to areas such as South Hills, Linmeyer, Risana, Tulisa Park, parts of Oakdene and parts of Rosettenville Extension, left residents without water for over a week at the beginning of this month. These residents found themselves in the same predicament back in July this year, when they went without water for nine days.
The South Hills water tower is a microcosm of the legacy of Rand Water’s failure to proactively and systematically maintain their infrastructure. The reasons given for the latest water outages in the area was that the Meyers Hill reservoir was below the threshold at which water could be pumped into the South Hills tower. Rand Water had a power supply issue at their Zuikerbosch purification works plant towards the end of August, which affected pump stations feeding into Meyers Hill. Just this past weekend, the Zuikerbosch plant again was affected by power supply interruption at Eskom’s Snowden substation.
However, it is not only power outages that affects supply to water towers. While Rand Water tries to scapegoat electricity as the only reason, they also throttle water supply when conducting reactive maintenance of their ageing and neglected infrastructure. If Rand Water proactively and systematically maintained their infrastructure over the years since their inception, water supply outages would be a far less common occurrence for residents in Johannesburg, and across Gauteng.
Added to this, Eskom still plays a part in the breakdown of water supply in Gauteng. Constant loadshedding has weakened bulk water supply infrastructure, while the national power supplier has also failed to maintain their own neglected infrastructure. The domino effect is there for all to see, especially when it is residents who are forced to collect water from trucks down the road.
Financial year after financial year, City Power has not been given a sufficient budget to upgrade their own infrastructure to help supplement the failures of Eskom. This just goes to show the positive impact that Independent Power Producers could play in the delivery of critical basic services such as water provision, where public entities such as Eskom miserably fail.
Johannesburg needs innovative and forward thinking when it comes to the supply of basic services. A metro municipality cannot be held ransom by failing national entities such as Rand Water and Eskom who do not have the will to keep the lights on and the taps running. There already exists municipal-owned power and water suppliers in the form of City Power and Johannesburg Water. With the right political leadership and sufficient allocation of budgets, these entities can pick up where national entities fail in their duties, so that residents no longer suffer, and can have a government that is closer to them who is responsible for all their basic services.
A DA-led Johannesburg would invest R20 billion on fixing, replacing, and upgrading roads, bridges, water pipes, waste water plants and power grids, will fix reported water leaks within 24 hours, and seek greater public-private partnerships to address the existing backlog so that residents can start being liberated from non-existent basic service delivery.