Power crisis leads to water cuts in South Africa’s economic hub

(Bloomberg) — Parts of Johannesburg, South Africa’s economic hub, are once again subject to water supply cuts as persistent electricity shortages disrupt pumping operations.

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A power outage at Rand Water’s Eikenhof pumping station, which supplies reservoirs in several high-elevation parts of Johannesburg, resulted in a critically low supply level, the council said on Twitter on Monday. While repairs are complete, it warned that time is needed to replenish the storage system. Alternative water sources have been arranged for hospitals.

State-owned Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., which supplies 90% of all electricity in South Africa, cannot meet the demand for power from its largely old and poorly maintained plants and has instituted constant blackouts to prevent the national grid from collapses. There were record breaks last year and they show no sign of abating.

Power rationing, which can last for hours at a time, takes an increasing toll on the economy, disrupting manufacturing, mining and agriculture. Cape Town, the country’s main tourist hub, partially closed several beaches late last year during the height of the holiday season after sewage pumps failed.

Read more: Why blackouts are still crippling South Africa: QuickTake

According to the Department of Water and Sanitation, municipalities must ensure that sanitation infrastructure, sewage pumping stations and generators are maintained and kept operating to ensure sewage is not spilled. It confirmed that the power cuts, however, reduced the reliability of water supplies to consumers, with the effects varying between different areas depending on the capacity of their backup generators.

“The stop-and-start process at the water treatment plants negatively impacts water quality,” the department said in an email response. “The power cuts are also negatively impacting the treatment process at the sewage treatment plant, resulting in poorly processed discharge from the treatment plant. The storage capacity at the sewage pumping stations is not designed for long periods without drainage. That also increases the risk of any spillage.”

Crime and vandalism have also negatively impacted Johannesburg’s water supply, with thousands of water meters, manhole covers and hundreds of water tanks stolen over the past year, according to the council.

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