Avatar photo

By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist


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

The critical maintenance work on the 37-kilometre Lesotho Highlands Water Project tunnel is due to begin in October 2024 and is expected to end on 31 March 2025.


The Department of Water and Sanitation has warned South Africans, especially those in the economic hub of Johannesburg in Gauteng and fertile agricultural lands of the Free State, of a looming water shutdown that could last at least six months.

It is understood that critical maintenance work on the 37-kilometre Lesotho Highlands Water Project tunnel is due to begin in October 2024 and is expected to end on 31 March 2025.

South Africa’s water resources are already under immense pressure in terms of poor water governance, reactive management and dilapidated infrastructure.

ALSO READ: ‘SA in a much better place under ANC than 29 years ago’- Mashatile

Critical maintenance of water systems

Acting deputy director of the department of water and sanitation Livhuwani Mabuda told 702 the shutdown is critical for ensuring the integrity and maintenance of the tunnel systems.

Mabuda said the aim of the maintenance is to “cleanup” the corrosion that is forming in the tunnel and reapplying corrosion protection.

“Every five years and no longer than 10 years, we have to go in, shutdown the tunnel for a short period and do some inspections and maintenance that is necessary. We have done two shutdowns already, the last one being in 2019.

“This was just for two months wherein we noticed there is some peaking of our lining in some of the sections in the tunnel that needs to be sorted out and that can’t be done in a two-month shutdown. That’s why we are going for a much longer six months shutdown,” Mabuda said.

Residential areas that rely on the tunnels for their water include Mafube, Nketoana and Dihlabeng in the Free State and Gauteng province may experience water restrictions well as reduced pressure, and the periods during which the resource is available may be shortened.

Precious resource

Mabuda said when the repairs are completed, the tunnel should perform well over the next “20 to 30 years”.

With deputy president Paul Mashatile describing water as the next crisis, Mabuda urged South Africans to save water.

“We will have to use water sparingly each one of us so that we are able to share the little that is there. However, this scheduled maintenance has been carefully planned to make sure there is very minimal disruptions to water supply.

“There shouldn’t be any concern in the larger areas that are supported by Rand Water because the system is in a good state and the dam levels are high,” Mabuda said.

ALSO READ: Water crisis: Municipalities up the creek without a paddle