While load shedding has affected water supply in some areas in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, most areas are unlikely to experience major water cuts – unless load shedding goes beyond Stage 4.
Eskom implemented Stage 6 load shedding for the first time ever this week, but reverted to Stage 4 a few hours later.
News24 sent questions to three major water utilities in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town, to get a sense of the possible effect load shedding has on water supply.
In Gauteng, Rand Water is a water board that provides potable water to the province.
Rand Water’s Justice Mohale told News24 that it had an agreement with Eskom that it would be cut last on the grid when there is load shedding.
This, however, has not stopped the utility from feeling the effects. Mohale said primary and secondary plants have historically been affected by the power cuts.
“When stages 1 to 4 of load shedding are implemented, Rand Water would be requested to reduce load where possible, and the organisation adheres to the request and [does] so without affecting our supply system”, Mohale said.
Should Stage 6 load shedding be implemented, however, Eskom would be able to decide which essential site to prioritise.
In the event of normal load shedding, Rand Water stations have generators, Mohale said.
“The current load shedding period has not adversely affected the Rand Water supply system”.
The City of Cape Town responded to News24’s questions with a statement of its own this week.
The statement warned residents that should Stage 6 load shedding be implemented, it could result in intermittent supply in certain areas.
“Load shedding of this severity is likely to constrain our ability to provide water supply in the reticulation system across the whole of Cape Town in the usual way.
“Our pumps for both the water and sewerage systems cannot operate properly without power for significant periods”, the City said.
It added that extent of the interruptions could not yet be determined, however, it would be monitored.
“Residents should not panic, but please use water sparingly and prepare just in case they do experience a period of no water supply.”
According to Umgeni Water, KwaZulu-Natal’s water and sanitation body, recent rain in South Africa led to a marginal increase in dam levels.
But load shedding has impacted on raw water abstraction and water supply at some small facilities.
Shami Harichunder, corporate stakeholder manager at Umgeni Water, said “one wastewater pump station, at Mpophomeni, outside Pietermaritzburg, has also felt the impact of heavy rains through strong inflows.”
As a result of power interruptions, Harichunder said, pumps used for raw water abstraction were partially affected in Mtwalume on the South Coast.
“This means there were delays in supply of raw water for treatment to potable water standards or there was reduced production of potable water”, he said.
Drinking water was also affected by the load shedding in the Midlands, from Howick West to Groenkloof Reservoir, resulting in inadequate water supply at times in resulting in Vulindlela and Mpophomeni.