Rand Water and Joburg Water fail residents and won’t talk to them

Rand Water and Joburg Water fail residents and won’t talk to them

WaterCAN demands urgent action from authorities on Joburg water supply crisis.

Image: WaterCAN

WaterCAN, a leading civil society organisation dedicated to ensuring access to clean and safe water, is alarmed that the authorities are struggling to resolve the dire water supply situation in Johannesburg.

“Johannesburg is on the brink of a catastrophic water supply crisis,” says Dr Ferrial Adam, Executive Manager of WaterCAN. “Rand Water and Joburg Water’s failure to adequately manage water resources has pushed our city to the edge.”

WaterCAN believes that the national Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), Rand Water and Johannesburg Water are not communicating clearly with residents, although WaterCAN and civil society in November established a joint forum with those authorities  on the Joburg water crisis (see here).

“We have an established forum for the authorities to communicate with civil society and residents. It is completely frustrating that we have to chase these bodies for answers.  why can’t they bring this information to the forum where all structures are represented? Is protest the only language they understand?” says Adam.

“The impending water supply crisis in Johannesburg demands urgent attention and decisive action. We cannot stand idly by while our communities face the threat of water scarcity. It is imperative that we come together to demand accountability and work towards sustainable solutions.”


What WaterCAN is doing

WaterCAN is hosting a crucial civil society meeting on Friday 15 March 2pm to discuss the Joburg water crisis. The meeting will provide a platform for concerned organisations to voice their grievances and demand accountability from water authorities.

“We cannot afford to wait any longer. Action must be taken now to avert a full-blown water catastrophe,” says Adam.


The problem: water shortages, non-revenue water and high charges

Adam highlighted the alarming reports of dangerously low reservoir levels, emphasising the immediate need for action. “The levels of reservoirs are at historic lows, posing a grave threat to the well-being of our communities.”

Some Joburg water reservoirs and towers were reported to be empty, with 14 at 10% or less.

Reports on the reservoir levels are here and here.

Authorities should fix leaks, not just charge customers more

In late February, in the midst of this crisis, the water board annual tariff increases were tabled in parliament.

Rand Water’s tariff document plans a basic increase to municipalities of 4.9% and says that Johannesburg Water has agreed (see here). It plans to add another 1% increase on top of this, to create a Water Demand Management Fund, giving a total increase of 5.9%.

The increase will take the charge from about R12.68 per litre to about R13.43 per litre (plus VAT) and is due to take effect on 1 July, the start of the municipal financial year.

Rand Water’s basic increase calculation is based on: the 1.3% decrease in the cost of buying raw water from DWS  and its entity the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority; the increased electricity cost from Eskom (12%) and municipalities (11.4%); a 29% increase in the cost of chemicals; a 6.1% increase in labour costs; and 13.3% increase in depreciation.

Rand Water’s tariff document notes that the non-revenue water problem among its municipal customers is getting worse, moving from 22% in 2005 to 45% in 2022.At the same time, municipalities are exceeding their DWS-set allocations from the Vaal River, which is more than the river can sustain.

WaterCAN does not regard increasing the water tariffs as a solution, and believes that both Rand Water and Joburg Water should prioritise repairing leaks to bring down costs and conserve precious water.

“It is interesting that Rand Water is planning to increase the tariffs, as this does not make sense. A key problem for water boards is that municipalities are not paying them fully. How does increasing the tariff help with cost recovery?” says Adam.

“Johannesburg Water – which admits it is not collecting enough from its customers – then passes that increase on to those customers who are already struggling. Again, this is not a solution.”

In October last year, DWS told parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation that municipal debt to water boards was growing, with the municipalities owing the boards R17.89 billion (see here).

Joburg Water says on a banner on its website that it is not collecting enough revenue from customers.

The municipal quarterly financial reports to National Treasury (the section 71 reports) show that in October 2023, City of Joburg customers owed R16.1 billion in water bills and another R7.7 billion in sanitation bill unpaid for more than 90 days (see here and here). Both of these services are managed by Joburg Water.

About WaterCAN:
WaterCAN is a dedicated environmental organisation committed to preserving and protecting South Africa’s water resources. With a mission to promote responsible water management and raise awareness about water quality, the organisation empowers communities to become proactive stewards of their local water sources. If you would like to support our work, kindly Donate Here.

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