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By Martin Williams

Councillor at City


Surviving Joburg: From dripping taps to dodging potholes

Suburbanites are moving beyond the stage of denial, towards acceptance.


Abused ratepayers have every right to demand better service from Joburg Water, City Power and the Joburg Roads Agency. Please continue making noise but be wary of rates boycotts. Nothing you do will improve service soon. Not with the present lot in charge, including a domkop mayor who says there is no water crisis. Even as the Multi-Party Charter (MPC) today announces a plan to jack-up basic services, any trickle-down won’t happen for quite a while, as next month’s elections are not for local government. For the MPC to fix Joburg soon without being in charge of the metro would…

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Abused ratepayers have every right to demand better service from Joburg Water, City Power and the Joburg Roads Agency.

Please continue making noise but be wary of rates boycotts.

Nothing you do will improve service soon. Not with the present lot in charge, including a domkop mayor who says there is no water crisis.

Even as the Multi-Party Charter (MPC) today announces a plan to jack-up basic services, any trickle-down won’t happen for quite a while, as next month’s elections are not for local government.

For the MPC to fix Joburg soon without being in charge of the metro would be overambitious.

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In fact, Joburg’s water dire situation will worsen. Guaranteed.

As a ward councillor since 2016, I’ve noted rapid deterioration over the last few years, with more outages and bursts. Hours taken to resolve problems have also increased.

Joburg Water’s maintenance backlog is not some distant problem. It has practical consequences.

Thousands of kilometres of pipes which for decades have not been maintained, or replaced, will inevitably crack. The more they break, the more the frequency of bursts will increase, because asbestos concrete pipes were not designed for wild pressure fluctuations.

Much air is introduced into the Joburg Water system during these outages, causing havoc with meter readings and damaging pipes.

ALSO READ: Joburg mayor’s water spin just full of hot air

Having been told ad nauseam that Joburg’s water situation will deteriorate further, what are you going to do about it? How can you become less reliant on Joburg Water?

Until recently, residents would reject suggestions that solar panels and inverters might offer protection against the forces of darkness at Eskom and City Power. Yet solar panels are now de rigueur in the suburbs.

The same is starting to happen with water back-up systems.

Suburbanites are moving beyond the stage of denial: (“This can’t be happening. I pay my rates”), towards acceptance: (“Water supply is becoming less reliable. I’d better make a plan.”)

The wealthiest can semigrate or emigrate, though few would choose England, where water authorities are in deep sewage.

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A borehole can be an expensive gamble, with no guarantee you’ll find enough water at a viable depth. Water back-up systems, with tanks and pumps connected to Joburg Water are proving increasingly popular.

With enough municipal water replenishably stored, you may be able to survive repeated outages.

Some folks are placing such tanks near their property inner boundaries, where they can be topped up from municipal or private commercial water trucks. Here, too, Joburg Water is under-resourced, with only 35 such water tankers/ trucks for six million inhabitants.

Any politician, official or expert who tells you Joburg’s water problems can and will be resolved in the short term is talking nonsense.

Back-up water systems are now an essential part of the Johannesburg survival kit. You also need alternative energy supply such as solar panels, inverters or generators (strong, silent types preferred).

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Also recommended is an oldish 4×4 vehicle with high ground clearance, to reduce the trauma of driving on potholed, rutted roads while dodging hazardous excavations left open beyond their fill-by date.

Equipped in this manner, you’ll be ready for Survivor Joburg.

Until “the tribe has spoken” at the 2026 local government elections.

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