Gauteng and NW Province

Johannesburg and Durban can no longer supply water demand.

By Jeremy Westgarth-Taylor

This statement is made clear in an article in The Times on line on 14 April 2014.

This is the view of highly respected Anthony Turton, various municipal bureaucrats and a Johannesburg city councillor.  Sense is made though by Councillor Ralf Bittkau, who is promoting the harvesting of rainwater as a means of augmenting supply.  No mention whatsoever however is made of any advice to the homeowner, or for that matter commerce and industry how to use less water, and using less water has to be the key to demand management of water.  If supply has come to an end which it has, then it is up to demand management to make this water last.


Water outage as a means to stem demand is a good tool that is used for instance in India where water for food security is treated as higher importance than to the homeowner or business.  The supply of water to the city of New Delhi for example has been interrupted in the form of periodic outages for many years and is a blunt tool instrument that works well and does not have a political backlash, like higher tariffs.

What would work as well without backlash is the reduction of pressure, which is happening by default anyhow in most places in Johannesburg. The reason for the fall in pipeline pressure is thanks to more users coming on the very same pipe lines as 10 years ago, without the upgrading of the size of these pipes.  In Cape Town, reduction of pressure which has been carried out to reduce the night flow into Kayelitsha and Mfuleni (from water from vast numbers of unrepaired toilet cisterns flowing into pans and to the sewerage treatment works) has been dramatically reduced.  This also has had an effect on water pipeline bursts and pipe leaks as if for instance the pressure in a pipe is halved, the resultant leakage (lost water) reduction is far greater than 50%.

The article in The Times made no mention of alternatives to water supply.


For the first time that I have heard Anthony Turton reported, and if he has been reported correctly, his comment makes little sense.  He is reported to have said water outages would be “catastrophic” for the economy, especially for “strategic water users” like Sasol and Eskom.  All consumers of water have the privilege of reducing their demand.  This is done by re-using grey water, minimizing toilet flushing water, re-using swimming pool backwash water, all of which brings usage from 380 litres per person per day to as little as 120 litres per day without a change in lifestyle.  Furthermore, if those same people affected by potential outages were to invest in rainwater harvesting as developed by Water Rhapsody, these consumers of water would find themselves off the grid for the entire rainy season, with an additional benefit of exemption from water outages.   To amplify on exemption, the users of the Water Rhapsody Systems would not even notice that water had been off for a period of and exceeding 24 hours!  The tools for this are available from Water Rhapsody and have been for the past 20 years, so what is the thinking behind the silence of the suppliers of water?  The thinking is one of political empire building!  Many millions in all the major cities in South Africa are made from the sale of water, and though water prices are a very refined tool to get people to use less, this is not expedient when an imminent election is to be held.   As for Anthony Turton’s comment about Sasol and Eskom.  We really need a shakeup of the way energy is produced in South Africa.  If water is to be the limiting factor to the way energy is produced then water as this limiting factor is nothing less than an excellent constraint.  This will force these parastatal companies ruled by corrupt politicians by default to revert to renewable alternatives such as solar power which requires no water whatsoever, and these power generation plants may be placed anywhere in the country you like, which will also by default reduce on the huge distances of power lines that traverse our beautiful country.  It will also send a message to the proposed prospectors of shale gas and the preposterous volumes of water required for this proposed destructive and corrupt industry


Beware of drought Capetonians.

Cape Town last suffered drought which ended in the higher than average rainfall of 2005.  Since then for the last nine years Cape Town has had higher than average rainfall.  I did not hear anyone predicting this, nor have I heard anyone’s predictions of the next drought.  When will this drought occur and how long this will persist? If this drought should start now, Cape Town has only one year of water security.  Since 2005, Cape Town has had huge growth in population numbers and like Johannesburg and Durban; the City has paid scant attention to demand management, at best providing lip service.  At worst the bureaucrats in charge of water express aggressive tactics to anyone providing water saving tools.  The writing on the wall for the City of Cape Town is simple.  Be warned Cape Town, the city is in a very precarious position as far as water supply is concerned.  There are no more dams or rivers that can possibly be dammed in the Western Cape.  There is no more water augmentation schemes of the size needed to provide enough water for the next drought.  What is more we don’t have the money or the energy for any major desalination plants.  Water restrictions next drought will not suffice.  There will be an onslaught:  Water outages and because elections are behind us, much higher tariffs to make up for the losses for water outages will be a thing that will happen.

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