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Water Crisis Committee activists organise more formally to ensure maximum impact

The need for a steady water supply from the city is urgent, but to ensure efforts in holding authorities to account is successful, a streamlined argument must be utilised.

The Water Crisis Committee (WCC) formed by civil society activists and water experts just over 100 days ago is organising even more activities to achieve their goals.

Heavy hitters like Outa and Water CAN, Corruption Watch, Joburg Crisis Alliance, Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Defend our Democracy, and civic activists are all spearheading this campaign which will continue to hold those responsible to account.

The group has already achieved much, from mobilising like-minded citizens who have protested peacefully at a council sitting in Brixton, to getting commitments from high-level Rand Water (RW) and Johannesburg Water (JW) officials to form a working group. The mayor himself has committed twice to meeting the group, although that is still to happen, nor is the working group off the ground as JW stalls discussions [Week ending January 19, Crisis group stunned by mayor’s silence].

Members of the organising group met to whittle down their objectives and aims – an important step to ensuring they do not become sidetracked in their mission.

Sandra Perry ran the first session which identified problems as they relate to water supply in the city. Photo: Emily Wellman Bain

Sandra Perry ran the first and most difficult session – with so many problem areas having an impact on water supply, identifying realistic targets and focus areas can be tricky.

Mike Muller, a well-known water expert, says one battle they need to win is educating the public that just because the dams are full, it does not equal enough water for everyone. “Full dams are not a solution as there is a limited supply of water generally. As a city, we need to reduce consumption. Finding a way to get residents to understand this and change their water usage behaviour is vitally important.”

Below are some of the items on their draft strategy document which is currently being debated by their broader group to decide on a formal working plan from which they will work.

Water activists at the Brixton Multipurpose Centre when council was in session–protesting against a lack of service delivery. Photo: Emily Wellman Bain

Some points that were considered are:

  • Infrastructure – The Lesotho Highlands project has been delayed
  • Water losses – Leaks and broken pipes cause the loss of thousands of litres of water across the city
  • Population – An influx of people into the city is causing a demand that is more than the available supply
  • Repairs and maintenance – An inadequate rate of repairs and poor maintenance
  • Environment – Higher water demand in summer months, El Nino / La Nina effect
  • Budget – Insufficient resource allocation and municipal revenue model
  • Communication – Ineffective communication to residents to curb demand
  • Town planning – Subletting and hijacked buildings are not managed

Specifics may change as the group debate and agree on the final intent and wording, but the gist of their framework is as follows:


  • A just, fair, safe, and equitable water supply
  • Communities and their authentic representatives, politicians, civil servants, and broader society working in partnership to conserve and protect our water services
  • Communities playing a meaningful role in the planning and budgeting processes concerning water provision and, in the monitoring, and evaluation of implementation

Some of their key pillars are:

  • Community mobilisation – organising communities to act for an equitable water supply and conservation of limited water resources
  •  Building accountability and transparency
  •  Building alliances – Working in a non-sectarian and non-partisan manner with our organisations that share our goals and values
  •  Engaging with the authorities – Working through the WaterCAN and other civil society organisations, engage Rand Water, Joburg Water, and the Department of Water and Sanitation through the representative committee.
  • Legal action
  • Research – Rapid research to test opinions and establish the extent of problems as they emerge through surveys and questionnaires.

Water supply is in some places acutely affected by power outages– areas like Northcliff and surrounds continue to experience extended outages, especially following load-shedding when substations trip or other faults.

Related Article: Mayor and Joburg Water in derelection of duties

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