On 26 March 2024, the City of Johannesburg (CoJ) launched its Water Security Strategy at the Johannesburg Theatre. The launch did not include key entities such as Joburg Water and Rand Water, and there was no engagement with broader civil society and other stakeholders. The document identifies the following priorities for the CoJ:

  • Secure the water supply
  • Manage water demands and losses
  • Ensure access to safe, reliable, and equitable water services
  • Promote resilience and sustainable urban water environment
  • Manage the water system’s knowledge and data
  • Nurture a water-conscious society
  • Achieve a coordinated good water government

The document suggests that the “City of Johannesburg (CoJ) aims to become a water secure city by 2040.” The risks identified include climate change and population growth, (and ignores the plethora of other reasons such as mismanagement, lack of skills and failing infrastructure – amongst many). While having a strategy is important, there is a need for an action plan to deal with the immediate challenges facing Johannesburg. In recent media reports, the City’s strategy does not have an acceptable allocated budget which means that it cannot be implemented, thus this plan is likely to gather dust.

Civil society can play a role given the wealth of knowledge, commitment and public intelligence available to move us beyond the risk of infrastructural collapse (which we are currently experiencing) and towards a path of co-governance of water.


This document was prompted by the city’s water crisis as well as the City of Johannesburg’s launch of its Water Security Strategy on 26 March 2024. The launch has been described as a smoke and mirrors exercise with pie in the sky actions that will not deal with the challenges being experienced in the immediate term (such as ageing and poorly repaired infrastructure).

We are in a water crisis and cannot afford the collapse of the City. There is enough knowledge, commitment and public intelligence available in civil domain to move us beyond the risk of collapse.

We are calling on people and organisations to sign on to this document to plead with CoJ and JW to actively engage with us on these issues as a starting point to building a co-governance approach to water in Johannesburg.


WaterCAN held two meetings to obtain real, immediate solutions to Joburg’s water crisis. The first was an open online civil society meeting on 15 March 2024 and the second one was a technical roundtable on 4 April 2024.

The meetings acknowledged that there are approximately 16 million South Africans that do not have reliable access to the supply of at least the basic water allowance. The focus on state capture must include a spotlight on the micro-state capture at a local government level that is feeding the ineptitude and demise of basic services. Future plans must explore how to de-link politicians from technical staff and municipal officials.

As civil society, we have developed a list of questions that can be used to develop an immediate action plan to hold the city accountable and monitor water governance. It has been agreed that the focus will be on CoJ as a pilot. The success will then enable the roll out of the action plan in other cities and metros where civil society voices are rising.

Civil society has a role to play in the ongoing water crisis. It was agreed that we must build awareness and education on the state of water, the basic rights and responsibilities of ordinary people and to simplify information so that it is accessible to all.

This document will be submitted to the next Joburg Water Forum and Joburg Crisis Alliance summit to build broader civil society support. In addition, WaterCAN will attach the finalised report to the request for civil society to address Council in June/July 2024.

The key questions and areas of concern focus on water quality monitoring, management, maintenance and budgeting (the list is not exhaustive but this is a good start) for the City of Johannesburg are as follows:

Water Quality Monitoring:

  • We call on the City to publicise all water quality testing results weekly on the JHB Water website with appropriate advisory notices where applicable.
  • Provide data on water quality monitoring equipment, including for example, calibration records, service records, chemical audits, date procured and training certification for operators of said equipment to ensure that analyses are accurate and conform to QA/QC protocols.
  • We request the action plan developed to address the Blue/Green/No Drop results that was required to have been submitted to DWS by the end of February 2024 be shared immediately.

Incident Management

  • Is there an incident management protocol in place to deal with water quality and quantity failures? (Protocol to have alert levels, response time, roles and responsibilities, communication methods and contact details)
  • If yes, what is the response timeframe for water quantity issues such as pipe burst, leaks, etc.
  • Is response time a Key Performance Indicator to evaluate effectiveness of the maintenance department?
  • How is repair work evaluated and signed off as completed?


  • Are Reservoirs linked to a central system (such a as a SCADA system) to show water level, may be able to open/close valves, switch on/off pumps?
    • If yes, we request inspection of the control room
    • Please provide protocol to deal with no flow/low flow alarms?
    • Is there is a protocol to deal with alarms (alert levels, timeframe for response, roles and responsibilities)?
    • If yes, why is it not currently implemented?

Asset management and water losses

  • Please share the network inspection reports including but not limited to: pipe size and condition per area.
  • Provide pipeline replacement program with approved budget
    • What is the criteria used to determine areas of high losses (bulk meters, revenue collection, inspections to identify illegal connections, pipe inspections for leaks, age of infrastructure, number of leaks in past year, etc?)
    • Is current pipeline replacement program utilising technology which can reduce cost and time such as cameras/robots for pipeline inspections, trenchless technology for pipe replacement, sonar for leak detection, etc
  • Has the City developed a Security Plan to deal with theft and vandalism of water infrastructure?
  • Is there a plan in place to deal with illegal connections?
  • Is the City monitoring bulk meters and night flows to identify areas of high water losses?


  • How many maintenance teams are there per suburb?
  • Is there a routine maintenance schedule for the equipment?
  • Is there a SAPS system/electronic system to record and monitor maintenance?
    • If yes, please provide following information for past year
    • Monthly list of current and outstanding water-related incidents(leaks/pipe bursts/interruptions/ poor water quality)
    • Monthly list of root cause analysis
    • Monthly list of response times for failures: pipe burst/leaks/no water
    • Monthly list of recurring maintenance failures


  • We call on the City (through Treasury) to ring-fence the water and sanitation budget.
  • The City must ensure that 12% of the budget must be allocated for maintenance and equipment (vehicles, critical spares, equipment). It must not include contractors and staff
  • How is the city planning to improve revenue collection?
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Add your voice!

If you support WaterCAN's action plan and wish to amplify our message, we invite you to complete the form below. Signature submissions close at the end of business on May 17th, 2024. We will deliver a collective letter to the City of Johannesburg, and your voice can make a significant impact.

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