SA Water Crissis: Rand Water says it is on schedule and will finish maintenance on time

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Bulk water supplier, Rand Water, says it is on schedule with its maintenance, that has seen parts of Gauteng with reduced water supply.

The disruptions in water supply are expected to run for 54 hours (from 05:00 on Monday) as the utility does work on its B19 and B11 pipes.

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According to Rand Water CEO, Sipho Mosai, and chairperson, Matshidiso Hashatse, the maintenance on the pipelines, more so the B19, was a necessity and could not be avoided. 

The two Rand Water officials briefed the media, alongside Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu, on Monday on the maintenance work.

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Rand Water announced the work on the two pipes last week. 

“We are on schedule; we are busy cutting the existing pipes. Following that we will start welding in [and] we will test. We anticipate that this will take 54-hours. We are still on schedule. I just need to inform the members of the public that we are doing well. We hope we will complete the maintenance on brief and on time,” Mosai said. 

READ | As Joburg, eThekwini and Gqeberha face cuts, govt assures that SA is not in a water crisis

The CEO explained that the utility used various networks to supply water in the country. The pipes run over about 3 500 kilometres.

He said most of them were drinking water pipes taking water from purification stations to the municipal reservoirs.

Other pipes were cachements, also called raw water pipes, taking water from the Vaal river to the utility’s purification station where it is cleaned and distributed in bulk.

The B19 and B11 pipes take water to a purification stations in Vereeniging and provide one-third of Rand Water’s water supply, Mosai said. 

He said Rand Water supplied about 4 600 million litres of water a day and Vereeniging only supplied about 600 million litres. 

Mosai added that this was why there was no complete shutdown of water in Gauteng. 

The CEO said: This is extremely important; this is not an entire shutdown. It is not a cutting or closing of water. We supply 4 600 million litres of water a day [and] we are only taking out taking out 600 million litres a day. That is why most of the areas that may be affected by water, still had water this morning. Because it is not a complete shutdown. It’s a limited shutdown of a pipe that takes water into one of our purification works. And there are many other pipes that do that.

Why work is being done on the B19 pipeline

Hashatse said maintenance on the B19 pipeline was to ensure that its lifespan is extended and its capacity is increased.

This is so that it will be able to supply more water.

“This improvement will ensure that this asset can operate in a more energy efficient manner and as it operates in a more energy efficient manner, it means we are saving on operating costs, which I’m sure the citizens of Gauteng would like us to do,” Hashatse said.

She added: “What we are doing is to increase efficiency, longevity of the pipeline, the reliability of the infrastructure; to make sure it continues to work properly and without cause for concern. Most importantly, we would like citizens to understand that as Rand Water, we are looking after this infrastructure.” 

The chairperson said the utility understands the inconvenience the reduced water supply was causing but by conducting the maintenance, the utility is, “… doing what we actually are supposed to do – to look after the infrastructure.”

Work being done 

The B19 and B11 pipes water will be isolated and drained before work is done on them.

Mosai said a new pipe will then be connected. 

The process is expected to take about 11 hours, Mosai added.

He said the first portion of maintenance was already completed; within eight hours. 

Mosai said an additional pipe was being placed to provide more raw unpurified water to the Vereeniging purification station.

“We are adding additional pipes to augment and supplement the water. South Africa is looking at various developments and none can take place if there is no water.” 

He explained that all Rand Water pipes were cross-connected so that when there were issues experienced on some pipes, water could be redirected to other pipes.

“This is actually a culmination of what you call a 10-year-augmentation plan that started from 2009, where we are adding additional infrastructure and pipe network into the system.” 

Hashatse said it was important to note that communities were developing and a change in the supply methods were a necessity, which was also why the maintenance was underway. 

She added that the work being done on the pipes was “planned” and there was no, “… failure of the infrastructure.

She said it was better for the maintenance work to be done in a planned way to avoid reacting to issues in the future. 

Rand Water briefed and consulted all the affected municipalities ahead of the maintenance. 

She added: We are aware it might affect citizens, businesses, it might affect places of service delivery, like schools and clinics. We are hoping that the interruption will be minimum. We do also understand and we need the public to join us in this understanding that it is sometimes unavoidable when you doing maintenance of this large scale, that some areas will go without water and that you will need to do alternative supply.

News24 reported that cases in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg were rolled over to Thursday due to the reduced water supply. 

Justice spokesperson, Steve Mahlangu, said the water disruptions were being monitored and lower courts had water supply, although the pressure was dropping. 

“The Department will continue to assess the situation and provide updates to court services users on a case by case basis. In the event that water supply is completely cut off, courts may reprioritise matters according to urgency and all other matters will be postponed,” Mahlangu said. 

The Gauteng Department of Education and Health also said it was monitoring the water challenges and contingency plans were in place. 

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