South Africa

Joburg leadership disconnected from reality of water crisis

The proposal from Johannesburg’s Metro Council to research alternative water sources shows that they are disconnected from the real world and will fail to address the real problem – chronic mismanagement of the city’s infrastructure. 

This is feedback from water scientist Dr Anthony Turton, who told eNCA that the Metro Council’s new initiative is “absolutely ludicrous”.

Johannesburg and its surrounds have been hit by severe water cuts so far in 2023, and while water interruptions have been happening for years, they have been scaled up dramatically in recent weeks. 

The deteriorating situation recently forced the Minister of Water and Sanitation, Senzo Mchunu, to intervene. 

On 27 September, he announced a new initiative called “water-shifting” to deal with the shortages. 

The proposal from the Metro Council aims to reduce the reliance of South Africa’s largest city on Johannesburg Water, which has failed to prevent water shortages in some areas of the city this year. 

Alternative water sources include underground water, wells, and springs. 

Turton dismissed this plan out of hand. 

“The very way in which this has been suggested tells me that the leadership has absolutely no clue about what is going on because, in their mind, they think there is a water shortage problem. That is a misdiagnosis.”

“We all know what the problem is. The problem is failing infrastructure in the city, which is under the management of the city,” Turton said. 

“I can promise you that this has defied the best collective brains of the South African engineering community for the last 120 years.”

South Africa already has extensive knowledge from the Water Research Commission, which has produced research since the 1960s detailing all the technologies and solutions available to the government. 

Johannesburg is simply not conducive to wells or boreholes as it is a gold-bearing reef and has been mined extensively for over a hundred years. 

The water found by boreholes or wells will be acidic and filled with discarded mine water that contains dissolved uranium. 

“It is ludicrous. Absolutely ludicrous,” Turton said. 

“It shows the disconnect between the leadership and the real world. I am frankly disgusted by this whole thing.”


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