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Hundreds of millions to tackle crisis

A Joburg Water project comprising a 26-megalitre Brixton reservoir alongside the 2.2-megalitre Brixton water tower is under way as the City of Johannesburg, which is facing ongoing water shortages, looks to increase its water supply. 

Thus far, 34% of the work has been completed. The reservoir will boost the Commando System which consists of the Brixton, Crosby and Hursthill water systems.

The project will also include the construction of a new Crosby pump station which is expected to begin later in the year. Construction of the reservoir commenced on 24 July 2023 after the tender was awarded on 22 December 2022. It is expected to come into commission at the end of April 2025. 

The Commando System receives water in bulk from Rand Water and distributes it to Region B suburbs, which include Northcliff, Melville, Auckland Park, Bordeaux, Kibler Park and the universities of Johannesburg and the Witwatersrand. 

Mandla Keswa, the operational manager at the electromechanical section of the Crosby, Brixton and Hursthill reservoirs, told Daily Maverick that water flowed from the reservoir to the pump station and then flowed downstream. 

“We are going to upgrade the Crosby pump station to incorporate new ones which are going to supply the new reservoir together with the old one to build more capacity. The old reservoir has a capacity of 22.2 megalitres and supplies the 1.9-megalitre Brixton (water) tower which supplies high-lying areas such as apartment buildings which have high elevation. 

“The reservoir supplies schools and houses that are not multistorey buildings. Those high-lying areas cannot be supplied by the reservoir as it is buried. To create the energy we need for the flow of water, we have to raise the water through the tower to make sure it gravitates towards (high-lying areas),” Keswa said.  

A mid-year infrastructure performance evaluation template shared with the media group touring the facilities assessed the total cost of the project at just over R275-million, with the budget for the current financial year R100-million. The near R300-million project is expected to increase storage capacity from 35 hours of average annual daily demand to 83 hours of demand, with the hopes that this will end water outages. 

The City of Johannesburg’s water tariffs are expected to increase by 7.7% as of 1 July, Finance MMC Dada Morero announced when tabling an R831-billion budget this week. 

The MMC added that Joburg Water’s R18.3-billion operations budget would be used for water quality assurance, sewerage service, water demand management systems and the prevention of infrastructure theft and vandalism. Joburg Water was allocated an additional R4.5-billion multiyear capital budget for the maintenance and upgrades of existing water bulk infrastructure. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Joburg tables R83.1bn budget aimed at tackling infrastructure and service delivery issues

Earlier this year, parts of Johannesburg experienced extended water outages that left some residents without water for three weeks. Rand Water blamed a lightning strike that affected the Eikenhof pump station, alongside a heatwave. 

However, a Joburg Water presentation to councillors showed that a valve at Rand Water’s Waterval Dal reservoir on Northcliff Hill had been closed, shutting off the water supply. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: As Rand Water warns of wider system collapse, Soweto and Johannesburg taps still dry

Johannesburg Water project manager Nqobizitha Ndimande said during his address to the media group that the project was being constructed on what used to be the Brixton Primary School sports field and would be turned into a multisports complex with the reservoir beneath it upon completion.  

Johannesburg Water said, “The Commando System is always the hardest hit by water shortages because of the City of Johannesburg’s growing population, ageing infrastructure and various other factors. The project is part of Johannesburg Water’s ongoing efforts to ensure consistent and long-term water supply through the upgrading of existing infrastructure, and the provision of new water infrastructure for additional capacity to support higher-density settlements.” DM

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