Johannesburg Water has to deal with ageing infrastructure, vandalism and prolonged load-shedding, among other issues, at its Commando system. TimesLIVE reports that the city’s water utility supplies 1.6 billion litres per day, procured from Rand Water, its bulk supplier, and distributed through a network of 129 reservoirs and water towers.
The Commando system, which consists of the Brixton, Hursthill and Crosby complexes, is part of this network, and it supplies water to parts of Region B, including Northcliff, Melville, Auckland Park, and parts of Randburg, and Region F, including Johannesburg CBD, City Deep and the universities of Johannesburg and Witwatersrand. It also supplies three hospitals – Rahima Moosa Mother and Child, Helen Joseph and Garden City.
Gugulethu Quma, a network electromechanical operator, said that the Commando system is under pressure due to a growing population, ageing infrastructure, vandalism and load-shedding. As a result, the water demand is high, but the network constrains the available supply, and when water is lost, it can take about a week or more for the system to recover. In addition, during load-shedding, the system does not pump at full capacity, and the Commando system needs to pump at a minimum flow rate of 2,500 litres per second to remain stable.
Operating the four reservoirs at the Commando system at a lower level affects high-lying areas, resulting in low or no water pressure. The system is also affected because it comes directly from the Rand Water supply, and when they start operating below those levels, the system becomes unstable. For a reservoir to function correctly, it must receive at least 2,500 litres per second from Rand Water.
Unfortunately, vandalism of infrastructure is also affecting the water supply. Despite having security and armed patrollers, some people try to vandalise the system, causing dire consequences. In addition, thieves steal infrastructure such as valves and cables, which take time to procure replacements while residents have no water.
Johannesburg Water recently completed urgent interventions to improve and secure a steady water supply to the struggling Commando system, including linking the Hursthill 1 reservoir to the Northcliff reservoir. These interventions address the challenges faced by the system, but more work is still required to ensure that residents receive a reliable water supply.