Avatar photo

By Editorial staff


Water problem greater than Lesotho project

We can have as much Lesotho water as we like, but we will run dry unless Joburg Water and Rand Water's failings are addressed… and soon.

In 1995, then water affairs minister Kader Asmal stood on the Vaal Dam wall, gazing out at what was, effectively, a large puddle because the dam was at one of its lowest levels since it was built in 1938.

While emphasising the impact of the deadly 1994/95 drought and the need for people to conserve water, he was nevertheless confident, as he told journalists, that “you’re never going to see the Vaal Dam looking like this again…”

ALSO READ: Water shutdown may affect ANC at polls – residents

He was aware that the ambitious Lesotho Highland Water Scheme would shortly come on stream, channeling hundreds of millions of cubic metres of water a year to both agricultural projects in the Free State and the country’s perpetually thirsty industrial heartland of Gauteng.

Asmal was passionate about water, despite it not being the sexiest Cabinet portfolio and he banged the drum of water conservation because he realised that water conservation, and not huge dam projects, was the way South Africa would secure its water future.

There have been some who are panicking about the imminent six-month shutdown of the pipeline from the Lesotho project, fearing it will exacerbate water supply challenges in Gauteng.

Experts we cite today, as well as the government, point out that major supply dams are still showing comfortably high water levels – the Vaal Dam is currently just over 67% full (compared to the 14% it was when Asmal spoke from the wall).

ALSO READ: South Africans warned to brace for massive 6-month shutdown of critical water supply

And no-one is challenging the reality that the maintenance needs to be carried out if the whole system is to function properly (remember Eskom?).

The problem that residents of Gauteng face is that our water utilities – Rand Water and Joburg Water – have neglected to maintain or expand water infrastructure.

We can have as much Lesotho water as we like, but we will run dry unless those failings are addressed… and soon.