South Africa: Johannesburg loses nearly 40% of its water annually

Water losses in Gauteng municipalities and many other towns and cities around South Africa should be spurring homeowners and businesses to invest in water conservation measures such as rainwater harvesting tanks.  Rain water tanks can collect significant amounts of rainwater that could become critical emergency water supplies when municipal water shortages arise.
water losses joburg
Gauteng municipalities collectively lost 480 980 000 kilolitres of water in the 2011 / 12 financial year, amounting to a staggering R7.84 billion in financial losses. This represents 36.7% of all water purchased by Gauteng municipalities and points to a growing crisis in water management in the province.

In response to my question, Gauteng Local Government and Housing MEC Ntombi Mekgwe revealed the detailed breakdown of water losses in Gauteng municipalities. This can be access here.

Of great concern is the fact that water losses are on the increase, up from 35.9% in 2010/11 with the main culprits being the three metros recording losses as follows in 2011/12:

Municipality Water lost


Johannesburg 206 020 000KL 39.3%
Ekurhuleni 133 250 000 KL 39.3%
Tswane 77 290 000 KL 25.2%

The main reasons provided for the huge loss of water annually according to the MEC include:

  • Lack of skilled technical staff;
  • Financial challenges to manage Operations and Maintenance;
  • Water loss implementation is inadequate
  • Tariff setting not cost reflective;
  • Tariff setting not promoting water loss management;’
  • Reliance on grants and subsidies;
  • Lack of information on water losses;
  • Ageing infrastructure challenges.

These reasons point to a deterioration in the managerial capacity of municipalities in Gauteng as well as a deterioration in maintenance programmes.

These water losses generate major financial losses for municipalities that are already financially stretched. The immediate target should be to arrest the increase in losses and then to bring water losses down to 15% of all water purchased in Gauteng within two years.

Then-Minister of Water Affairs Lindiwe Hendricks warned in 2009 that Gauteng could start experiencing water shortages from 2013 and by 2025 would experience severe widespread shortages.

Water is a scarce resource in South Africa and with the crisis in acid mine drainage in Gauteng, is becoming even more expensive to clean and more limited. Losses of such an important resource with rising demand due to urbanisation in Gauteng, will significantly increase the price of water over the medium to longer term.

The DA calls on MEC Mekgwe to implement a programme of action to assist municipalities in Gauteng to limit water losses.

If we fail to do this now, it will have serious consequences in future: not just on the revenue of municipalities but also in terms of the availability of water as a resource and the price at which it will be supplied.

Source: Politics Web (Statement issued by Fred Nel MPL, DA Gauteng Local Government Spokesperson, May 6 2013)

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