Metros hit with water outages due to load shedding

 ·17 Jan 2023

Water utility authorities across South Africa have warned that the high levels of load shedding are having an impact on water supply operations, and some areas may have low or no water pressure as a result.

Water pump systems and critical pipelines are all being affected by low and unreliable energy supply. According to the City of Joburg, in areas that are hit by four hours or more of load shedding, low water pressure will be present.

Residents have been asked to ease demand on pump stations by using less water. The City of Joburg said that pockets of areas in the city would have water shortages or low pressure.

South Africa’s political centre, the City of Tshwane, has also announced that persistent load shedding at high stages presents multiple challenges for water services in the area – especially in high-lying areas such as Laudium and Waterkloof Ridge.

“Much of the city’s water and sanitation reticulation systems rely on electricity. Our water treatment works, and pump stations need electricity to operate,” the city said.

“While we have reservoirs with storage to last through short interruptions, these reservoirs rely on a continuous flow to maintain levels and be prepared for outages. That continuous flow relies on the pump stations running to pump water.”

The city said it had tried its best to exempt water treatment works and key pump stations from rolling blackouts, but it is not possible to exempt all the water network systems that require electricity.

In Cape Town, as a precautionary measure, the city’s Water and Sanitation Directorate has urged residents to use less water to try and maintain the supply of prolonged high stages of load shedding.

The mother city’s authority said that high-lying or mountainous areas which rely on water pumping stations are at more immediate risk of low or no water pressure during high stages of load shedding – affecting these areas:

  • Somerset West region
  • De Novo and Kraaifontein, including Belmont Park, Eikendal and Scottsville
  • Deep South, from Simon’s Town to Murdoch Valley
  • Hout Bay

“‘The challenge is that reservoirs are not able to fill up fast enough because of the prolonged period of load-shedding while residents are also using lots of water at the same time,” the City of Cape Town said.

On Monday (16 January), Eskom announced that it plans to decrease the level of load shedding from stage 6 to stage 5 this week, but rolling blackouts will continue throughout the day.

According to the company, load shedding will be reduced to stage 4 during the day and will increase to stage 5 in the evenings.

Fourteen generators are expected to return to service this week to help ease the pressure on the power system. However, the company warned that there is a high degree of uncertainty and these plans are subject to change.

Mass power outages are having a disastrous effect on the day-to-day lives of South Africans, and promises by the government that it will be over within a year fall on deaf ears.

Energy experts, including Mathew Cruise from Hohm Energy, say that South Africa is likely to hit beyond stage 8 load shedding by July as the country moves into its winter peak.

Read: Warning over ‘stage 10’ load shedding – and what it means for South Africa

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