Joburg water situation not a crisis - Gordhan

Ahmed Areff, News24

Johannesburg - The water shortages in parts of Johannesburg were not a crisis because they could be managed, Co-operative Governance Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Thursday.

"A crisis would be when a problem is unmanageable. [The] current issues are due to a mix of changing weather conditions, increased demand and general bad usage habits," he told reporters.

Mayor Parks Tau said the problems in the southern areas of Johannesburg started with a power failure.

"The water outage in the south was due to the power failure affecting our systems," he said, indicating people in high-lying areas were affected.

Tau said there was an emergency shut down for the Illovo water tower and the Sandton area to allow the system to recover.

Water tankers

Earlier the City of Johannesburg said three water tankers deployed following the shortages had been stolen in Westdene, Crown Gardens and South Hills.

Water towers in Brixton and Crown Gardens in Johannesburg almost ran dry this week when demand exceeded supply.

Johannesburg Water told News24 on Wednesday water tankers were deployed to parts of the city, the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital and the Helen Joseph Hospital.

The tankers were there to top up the hospitals' own water tanks.

Water was pumped back to the towers and supply appeared to be back on Thursday.

Rand Water supplies the municipality's water.

Environment and infrastructure spokesperson Anda Mbikwana told News24 on Wednesday there was a problem with power for the pumps leading to a decrease in water.

"There wasn't enough by the time power was restored and there is a certain level it needs to be at to supply water."

Pump station problem

The Democratic Alliance (DA) said the problem was with Rand Water's Eikenhof pump station.

"Rand Water needs to come clean and explain to the residents of Gauteng why its Eikenhof pump station reportedly stopped pumping water due to a power failure," DA MP Mike Waters said.

"This is contradictory to the information they supplied Parliament, assuring Parliament they would ensure their pump station will have its own independent power supply per site."

For the past two days News24 has been told the Rand Water spokesperson was off sick and not available to comment. The organisation said it would comment later in the day on Thursday.

This came as Water Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane was not present to hear the outrage about South Africa's drought and water crisis at a heated parliamentary committee meeting on Wednesday.

The City of Ekurhuleni issued an alert on Tuesday saying there was no water in at least 11 areas in Germiston. It had also deployed water tankers to some areas.

"If the situation in all of the areas above deteriorates further, the city will implement water shedding measures and shut off supply from 10pm to 3am," it said in a statement.

"Water levels at reservoirs will be continuously monitored by the city and water shedding measures will be implemented as required."

The DA said it was unacceptable that Ekurhuleni still had not implemented a computer system to immediately alert them when reservoirs were running low.

"The days of using sticks to determine water levels are long gone," Waters said.

The city said it would also comment later in the day.

Shortage of bottled water

As the shortages hit Gauteng, some supermarkets on Wednesday had a shortage of bottled water and one put up a sign saying "We have no water".

At one Emmerentia supermarket, customers argued and fought over the remaining bottles of water - even resulting in one swearing at another after he grabbed one last pack of water while she was moving other cases of sparkling water to get to it.

The GoZone Health Water company said it was opening water refill kiosks at some Gauteng supermarkets after residents were confronted with dry taps.

"GoZone Health Water kiosks located at selected Gauteng retailers solve the trust issue associated with our increasingly compromised municipal water supply, while also helping consumers economise in a difficult economic environment," the company's John Oort said.