National department of water and sanitation spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said the Integrated Vaal River System was the largest water system in the country. Photo: Lisa Hnatowicz
There will be no water shortages in Gauteng, thanks to government’s long-term planning.
Gauteng is serviced by 14 dams which are part of the Integrated Vaal River System and this would make it “near impossible” for the province to experience water shortages, said the department of water and sanitation on Tuesday.
National department of water and sanitation spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said the Integrated Vaal River System was the largest water system in the country. It was created primarily to ensure the security of Gauteng’s water supply – South Africa’s the economic hub.
Ratau said the department had planned ahead and determined the province’s water requirements for the next decades. Ratau said:
They [Integrated Vaal River System] are supposed to ensure that we can store water for long periods and be able to use the water for a long time.
He said during the 2014 drought that affected the country, the system was affected because the dam levels went down. The Vaal Dam’s level went below 20% but this did not create a water supply crisis in Gauteng.
“The Sterkfontein Dam in the Free State is a reserve dam and during that time it released water to the Integrated Vaal River System in order to replenish the Vaal Dam and the system.”
He said the Sterkfontein Dam’s water level should always be above 90% because it was meant to be a backup for the system.
“In cases of water shortages, it would not be due to the low levels of water, but from infrastructure maintenance which would affect water supply in particular areas. In those cases, the municipality should make sure their reservoirs are sufficiently recharged in order to sustain water supply.”
Water infrastructure critical
The SA Water Chambers said it was ironic that the dams in the country have been full and overflowing but water infrastructure was not up to standard to cope with the demand.
Benoit Le Roy, the CEO of the chamber, told eNCA that water infrastructure was critical to water security as this allows South Africa not to be at the mercy of climate changes and cycles.
“[Water levels are] susceptible to the varies of nature, like what is happening in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro [in the Eastern Cape, where they are about to hit Day Zero, and water shedding in eThekwini [in KwaZulu-Natal], as a result of too much water,” said Le Roy.
He said South Africa needed to stop relying on service water because the dams were struggling.
“We need to diversify water sources and to keep our infrastructure up to date with the latest technologies to make it more resistance, have more redundancy built-in which is quite expensive.”
He said it could take seven to ten years to design and implement infrastructure and in South Africa, it could take longer.
“If we make it a priority, we can find ways to put infrastructure in place and target the four to five years instead of the seven to ten years. It is a challenge, but we have done this before. We just need to change the focus.
“We are going to have to spend more of our budget on water and the irony is that energy is getting cheaper – not at Eskom – but globally. Water is increasing in price because of its sensitivity and because it is the most expensive infrastructure asset in any town,” Le Roy warned.