South Africa: Water Crisis - Johannesburg Is the Next Eskom If We Don't Act Now


Johannesburg's water supply needs to be recognised for the emergency it is: the country doesn't have R20-billion for an immediate fix, but putting the right people in place can put a brake to the distress.

In 2007, we didn't have a name for load shedding, but it started when the city's east experienced a massive blackout. Since then, the price of decades of underinvestment in energy infrastructure has fallen painfully on us. Sixteen years later, the story continues.

Patronage networks extracted infrastructure investment as they webbed across Eskom and the former Presidency, turning out the lights for two decades. It has hobbled South Africa.

The parallels with Johannesburg's flailing water supply are clear. We are at about the 2007 mark but can still turn it around. To get the measure of the water crisis, all you have to do is drive around the city. Its streets are filled with giant holes (separate from the potholes that come from wear and tear). The big holes are left when pipes burst, are repaired in an emergency, and the road is never reinstated. There are about 4,190 pipe bursts a month, according to Johannesburg Water, the entity that runs the 10,957km water system.

The entity says its infrastructure backlog is R20-billion. If you ask politicians how we got here, they all blame each other for decades of bad planning and low capital expenditure.

The city has been run...

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