Many South Africans, who already struggle without electricity for hours on end, now also have to go without water as power outages batter the supply system.
Taps in some areas of Johannesburg and Pretoria ran dry this week due to a power outage at a pump station that supplies reservoirs and water towers, according to the provincial utility Rand Water.
Residents who have been forced to plan boring tasks like cooking and laundry based on a daily blackout schedule for months were further aggravated by this.
Rail worker Thomas Mabasa claimed that he had started taking showers at work, a luxury that his kids were not able to enjoy.
The 43-year-old told AFP, “(They) have to go to school without bathing.”
He was one of the angry locals who protested the situation this week in Soshanguve, a township north of the capital.
Demonstrators slowed down traffic by obstructing roads with debris and stones.
As tyres burned on the street behind him, Mabasa said, “Sometimes we wait to see if the water will come back in the middle of the night to wake the kids up so they can shower before it runs out again.
Vandalism and theft
Africa’s most industrialized economy has suffered from unprecedented power outages over the past year as problems at the indebted state energy company Eskom grew worse.
Approximately 90% of the nation’s electricity is supplied by the utility.
But because it struggles to maintain its aging coal-powered infrastructure, it has been unable to keep up with demand for years.
Wisane Mavasa, a spokeswoman for the water and sanitation ministry, stated that the government was collaborating with water utilities “to improve the situation”.
The water infrastructure is being impacted by the energy crisis, she claimed.
According to the government, one issue is that machinery must be restarted frequently because of power outages, which hastens breakdowns.
Pumping stations and water treatment, which depend on a constant supply of power to operate, have been severely harmed, it claimed.
The crisis has also been exacerbated by crime, according to the municipality of Johannesburg, which reports that hundreds of water tanks were stolen or vandalized in 2022.
country with limited access to water
Schools and hospitals have also been affected.
At the weekend, Kalafong Hospital in Pretoria went without water for two days.
Ethel Malatji, a 21-year-old journalism student at the Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria, claimed she and her friends were unable to cook, clean, or take a shower.
She remarked, “We don’t even have water to drink.” She claimed that protesters torching tires on a road she crosses to access a portion of the campus has also interfered with her studies.
However, Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg, has been particularly hard hit by the issues.
Following electrical problems at some of its sewer stations, Cape Town had to close some of its beaches because of a sewage spill.
In the southeast of the country, rising demand has also put pressure on supply, prompting authorities to institute water rationing.
Dewald van Niekerk, director of the African Centre for Disaster Studies at North-West University, warned that if energy and infrastructure issues are not resolved, such incidents might become more frequent.
Van Niekerk stated that the pumps “need to be driven by electricity.”
With the anticipated return of the El Nino warm weather pattern, he cautioned that South Africa—a nation already short on water—is likely to experience severe drought conditions in the coming years.