On Monday, the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWA) announced that it had released water from its reserves at the Sterkfontein Dam, into the Vaal Dam to try and ease the country’s water shortages. This one of various moves that municipalities have had to make to try and mitigate the consequences of the drought. The Daily Vox team rounds up what the water situation is in Gauteng right now.
In September, the DWA announced that it will be reducing the water supply to all Gauteng municipalities, in the wake of the worst drought South Africa has seen in 30 years. Aside from trying to convince users to desperately save water (hey Houghton Estate and Dainfern, that means you too) the department had to take measures to mitigate disaster, and so, water shedding has been implemented in the Ekurhuleni and Tshwane municipalities.
So how much trouble are we in, exactly?
In case you haven’t noticed, South Africa is currently experiencing a pretty severe drought. Not only is it unseasonably warm for this time of year, there is also insufficient rainfall across the country. As if that weren’t enough, irresponsible water usage is rife.
According to the DWA, the Vaal River System, which supplies water to 14 dams, dropped to 49, 7% last week. The system was at 68, 8% in 2015. The Vaal Dam is at it lowest at a level of 26% and the faint smattering of rain we’ve received these past few weeks has done nothing to boost its water level.
So what do these water restrictions mean?
On August 12, the government published a notice saying that the municipalities drawing water from the Vaal River should limit urban water usage by 15% and irrigation usage by 20% with immediate effect.
The areas affected by the restrictions in Gauteng are Tshwane, Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni. In September, all three municipalities imposed water restrictions to adjust to the worsening drought conditions. In Tshwane and Ekurhuleni, water shedding has been implemented.
Following the notice, Level 2 water restrictions were announced in September and penalties for excessive water usage followed in October.
City of Tshwane
According to Rand Water, Tshwane is the only municipality in Gauteng struggling to implement water shedding effectively.
Last week, there was no water in the east and the west of the city and over the weekend, areas north of the city in Soshanguve and Mabopane spent the weekend without water.
On Sunday, the City of Tshwane announced that the Soshanguve reservoirs had run completely dry. Owing to the perilously low water storage facilities, the municipality was forced to impose restrictions without notice. This is against government regulation which calls for a four-day notice period before municipalities implement water shedding.
City of Johannesburg
Johannesburg will not be experiencing water shedding… for now.
According to Anthony Still, Member of the Mayoral Committee for Environment and Infrastructure Services, “Level 2 water use restrictions have been in place in Johannesburg from November 2015. The city is now introducing a water restriction tariff on domestic users effective on water usage from September 2016.”
Tariffs on excess consumption of water had been approved by the city for the 2016/2017 year to be implemented if absolutely necessary. The tariffs were implemented in September and will apply until the drought passes.
The tariffs mean that water users will be charged 10% extra on consumption between 20, 000-30 000 litres per month; 20% on between 30,000-40 000 litres per month and 30% on consumption exceeding 40,000 litres per month.
However, if the tariffs are not effective in reducing the consumption by 15%, water shedding could become a reality for Joburgers too.
— Gauteng Weather (@tWeatherSA) November 6, 2016
City of Ekurhuleni
In an effort to save water, the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality implemented water shedding measures on Monday.
According to a statement released by the municipality, voluntary water saving measures had managed to cut water usage by 3.5% a week but 15% was required.
Water shedding/rationing is not happening in the @CityofJoburgZA.It is happening in Ekurhuleni municipality. ^H
— Johannesburg Water (@JHBWater) November 6, 2016
As a result, water will be cut off in affected areas according to the water shedding schedule from 9pm to 5am every day.
In the statement, the municipality said if residents do not decrease their water usage by 15%, the municipality will be forced to implement water shedding during the day as well.
Since the restrictions had been introduced in September, about 3, 000 businesses and 41, 000 households exceeded their allocated water usage. R1,7 million was charged in penalties levied for excessive water consumption in October, the municipality says.
So what now?
DWA urges all water consumers to use water responsibly and to comply with the restrictions. The Johannesburg Metro Police Department has been asked to monitor compliance. Any irresponsible usage and non-compliance can be reported on the 24-hour hotline on 011 758 9650.
In the meantime, the ministry will #PrayForRain.
— Water Sanitation SA (@DWS_RSA) November 6, 2016
And here’s how the water situation stands across the country.