South Africa: Joburg’s Water Crisis Will Get Worse Before It Gets Better

Johannesburg is in the midst of a water crisis.

Residential areas, schools and hospitals across the city have been experiencing intermittent water shortages since the beginning of the month.

People across the region have reported spending days without running water, and have found themselves unable to cook, cleanse themselves or flush their toilets.

These severe water shortages were caused by a combination of load shedding and heat waves.

Although the reservoirs which supply Johannesburg are not – for the most part – empty, a sequence of power failures which occurred in September have affected the city’s main water plant from being able to pump water into the city.

To avoid more taps running dry, water utility Rand Water announced Stage 2 water restrictions for the foreseeable future.

This means that they have recommended that all of Gauteng’s municipalities place a ban on:

  • Sprays and sprinkler systems
  • The watering of lawns
  • The use of hosepipes to wash cars or clean pavements

The reservoirs which supply much of Gauteng are running low on water. If they are going to be replenished, Rand Water says public consumption will have to be reduced.

Rand Water spokesperson Makenosi Maroo has said that if public consumption of water does not go down, they will be forced to announce tougher restrictions.

“We will have to move up to different stages to ensure we manage the situation,” she said.

The situation is likely to get worse before it gets better.

On Sunday, the Johannesburg Water’s Commando system levels went from critically low to empty, meaning residents in the Hursthill reservoir zone have no water.

This zone includes Montgomery Park, Westbury, Greymont, Coronationville, Newlands, Northcliff, Newclare, Auckland Park, Albertville, Melville, Richmond, Parkview, Emmarentia and Greenside.

What are the ‘stages’ of water restrictions?

Much like load shedding, water restrictions are imposed in so-called ‘stages’ depending on the severity of the water crisis.

Gauteng is currently in Stage 2, but it could get worse. Here is a guide to all the stages:

Stage 1

  • Watering of gardens is not allowed between 6am and 6pm during summer
  • Using garden hoses to clean hard surfaces is also not allowed

Stage 2

  • Sprays and sprinklers are banned
  • Handheld hose pipes can only be used between 5pm and 7pm

Stage 3

  • Ban on sprinkler and drip systems
  • Handheld hoses can only be used for 15 minutes between 5pm and 7pm
  • Filling of pools is only allowed for 15 minutes using hosepipes

Stage 4

  • Outdoor irrigation of commercial and industrial spaces is banned
  • Only buckets of water can be used to wash vehicles
  • No filling of swimming pools
  • Recycling of water is encouraged

Stage 5

  • All limits of level 4 are upheld
  • In addition, the moderate use of water is encouraged

Stage 6

  • Non-residential households and properties must cut consumption by 45%
  • Water drawn from boreholes should not be used for outdoor purposes
  • Watering for agriculture should be reduced to 60%


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