Expect water woes for the next 5 years, says government

 ·28 Mar 2024

South Africa’s commercial hub, Gauteng Province, will be short of water until a cross-border supply expansion is completed in about 2029, a government official said.

Delays to the second phase of the $2 billion Lesotho Highlands Water Project have left Gauteng — and a wider region that accounts for about 60% of South Africa’s economic activity and in which 26 million people live — without adequate supply, said Sean Phillips, director general of the Department of Water and Sanitation.

Until the Lesotho expansion is completed, “supply is very tight,” Phillips said in a webinar on Wednesday organized by Creamer Media.

The threat of inadequate supply to the country’s industrial heartland was highlighted this month when a vast swath of the country’s biggest city, Johannesburg, was left without water for almost two weeks after a breakdown.

Rand Water, the bulk supplier that draws water from the first phase of the Lesotho Project, warned Johannesburg and two other major urban centres that its systems were on the verge of collapse.

Both this phase of the Lesotho project and the uMkhomazi Water Project, which is due to supply the southeastern city of Durban, are now proceeding after having stalled, Phillips said.

The Lesotho project consists of the construction of the Polihali Dam in Lesotho as well as tunnels to transfer the water to the Vaal River system in South Africa.

It will boost the annual supply of water to South Africa from Lesotho to 1.26 billion cubic meters (44.5 billion cubic feet) from 780 million currently.


South African Water Minister Senzo Mchunu plans to overhaul the national water industry and strip municipalities of responsibility for its provision, as interruptions to supply anger citizens two months ahead of national elections.

The sweeping reforms are intended to attract private investment, enforce accountability for non-performance and remedy a crisis that has seen outages nationwide, including this month across a swath of Johannesburg, a city of around six million people.

On Wednesday (27 March), Parliament passed the South African National Water Resources Infrastructure SOC Bill.

Published in August 2023, the bill provides for establishing the South African National Water Resources Infrastructure Agency as a state-owned company and major public entity.

“Amid water service delivery pressures in some parts of the country, it is envisioned that this new Agency will help create a reliable water supply in the country,” said Parliament.

Reported with Bloomberg

Read: Parliament passes 8 new bills – including changes for pensions and a new SOE in South Africa

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