[FEATURE] Is there a DAY ZERO ahead for Gauteng? | Infrastructure news

The WISA Gauteng Branch hosted the ‘Gauteng Water Security in 2022’ webinar that unpacked water security strategies in the Gauteng’s metropolitan municipalities. By Gina Martin, publications lead: Gauteng Branch Committee, WISA

The three Gauteng metros – City of Johannesburg, City of Ekurhuleni and City of Tshwane – presented their respective current water security status, challenges associated with water security, and water security plans for 2022. This was followed by a presentation on the National Water Security Framework (NWSF) by an independent integrated water resources management specialist from the CSIR.

City of Johannesburg (CoJ)

According to Ondela Tywakadi, principal specialist: Water Services, Policy Development and Regulation at CoJ, the municipality has close to six million commercial, industrial and domestic customers. CoJ is also the largest consumer of Rand Water in the Integrated Vaal River System (IVRS), has exceeded its abstraction licence limit, and is facing serious challenges in lowering water demand in the municipality.

Water pollution, loss of river catchments, ageing infrastructure, population and economic growth, as well as high non-revenue water (NRW) are all contributors to the municipality’s water demand problems.

In response, CoJ’s 2022 Water Security Strategy aims to align to the Joburg 2040 Growth and Development Strategy goals and outcomes, providing a long-term roadmap towards a more resilient, liveable and sustainable city. Some of the steps CoJ is taking to mitigate the water demand challenges in the metro include: • Implementing a Water Conservation and Water Demand Management (WC/ WDM) strategy, with programmes for active leak detection, infrastructure upgrade and renewal in Soweto, pipe replacements, new pressure-reducing valves, as well as public education and awareness.

• Inclusion of alternative water use in the review of the current Water Services By law, specifically the use of groundwater, rainwater harvesting (CoJ has developed a guideline), greywater use and effluent reuse. Groundwater exploration and the development of boreholes commenced in 2016, following a feasibility study. CoJ has drilled 26 boreholes thus far to supplement supply.

• Development of a drought management plan, as required by the Department of Water and Sanitation’s Disaster Management Plan. The objectives of this plan are to prevent and reduce water-related disaster risks, mitigate impacts by preparing effective responses to water-related disasters, minimise loss and property damage, and facilitate quick recoveries from the impacts of water disasters.

City of Ekurhuleni (CoE)

When explaining why water security within CoE was at risk, Aser Sekgoela, divisional head: Water Quality and Revenue Management at CoE, referenced:

• Population growth – the population in CoE has doubled in two decades.

• Low rainfall – South Africa’s average of 464 mm/annum is substantially lower than the global average of 860 mm/annum.

• The water requirement of half of South Africa’s water management areas exceeds availability.

• The demand on the IVRS, which CoE is part of, exceeds supply, and Rand Water’s abstraction licence will not be increased until the Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phase II is commissioned (expected to be in 2025/26).

CoE is therefore implementing a resilience strategy to increase water storage from an average of 24 hours to 36 hours. CoE has also identified future water resources, aiming to have an 80:20 split between Rand Water and alternative supply such as rainwater and stormwater harvesting, treated effluent reuse, groundwater abstraction, and acid mine drainage treatment.

Feasibility studies, pilot projects, borehole drilling, and by-law revisions are currently under way to make alternate water supply and water resilience a reality. A WC/WDM strategy was developed, identifying 21 initiatives earmarked to reduce NRW and water losses. The implementation of these projects and initiatives has resulted in the reduction of NRW from 40.3% in FY 2013/14 to 33.96% (as of August 2021), with the goal of 25% by 2025.

City of Tshwane (CoT)

Stephens Notoane, group head: Water and Sanitation Department at CoT, indicated that 72% of the municipality’s annual average demand is supplied by Rand Water. The remainder is acquired internally from CoT’s own fountains, springs, boreholes and water treatment plants, as well as from water treatment plants owned by Magalies Water. Facing the same challenges as the other municipalities, CoT experiences water losses of around 32% on average. Gauteng is one of the few urban places in the world not built alongside a water source or river system.

Notoane highlighted that all the cities within Gauteng depend on transfers to meet their water requirements. The volume of water required by 2026 will not be met if additional storage infrastructure is not built and investment into water security not prioritised. Gauteng is set to face a water deficit.

Changes in community/public behaviour are required, as the current water consumption per person in Gauteng exceeds the world average. New settlement and housing designs should take this into consideration by reducing water requirements and usage, as well as implementing water reuse systems and more efficient fittings.

The Vaal River Reconciliation Strategy concluded it is vital that WC/WDM strategies be implemented extensively, alongside large-scale water reuse. The CoT Water Resources Master Plan (2015) and Tshwane Vision 2055 (2013) aim to:

• investigate reuse as a possible additional water resource

• reduce demand on the IVRS (via Rand Water)

• take cognisance of water availability and requirements

• increase capacities and supply areas of water treatment plants

Strategic plan alignment

Although South Africa has been at the forefront of water sector innovations and initiatives in the region and internationally, it has struggled to implement some of the policies it advocates. Ashwin Seetal, an integrated water resources management specialist with the CSIR, highlighted the need for a deliberate and concerted effort to address these challenges, to provide water security for South Africa’s current and future socio-economic development needs, and for the NWSF objectives to be realised. Seetal added that it was clear that this was starting to happen; however, buy-in from role players outside the water sector was needed to see these initiatives succeed.

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO) was approached to develop a Water Security Perspective using specialist, expert and provincial inputs as well as a review panel. There are five programmatic areas for intervention, which are aligned to the points already raised by the metropolitan municipalities:

• reduce water demand

• manage variability to prepare for drought and/or water scarcity

• invest in alternative water sources and water conservation

• manage water quality to limit pollution and achieve environmental goals

• create effective institutions.

All water users depend on a common resource and set of infrastructure, and Gauteng’s excessive water usage must be reduced, with smarter planning and management of urban growth. Its existing supply of water must be better managed, and the water supply mix must be diversified.

Wastewater management systems must be repaired, water quality improved and stormwater management enhanced. Ultimately, water security is a never-ending challenge that requires effective institutions and collaboration. There is no single solution to fix Gauteng’s water security issues; rather, a combination of all these aspects is required.

By paying attention to the NWSF Focus Areas, acknowledging the sector’s many strengths and capabilities, weeding out obstructions, upskilling youth as sector resources, and providing impactful implementation and operational leadership, the vision for the water sector can be realised.

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