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Despite SA’s worst drought in decades, homes in suburbs are wasting water willy-nilly

The worst drought in 30 years could see thousands of South Africans without water if the rains do not come soon.

The El Niño climate phenomenon has run reservoirs and dams dry, forcing the national government and municipalities to institute stringent restrictions to save the little water the country has left.

But who are the biggest water wasters in the three largest metros?


Jo’burg phased in water restrictions last year. Households using more than 20 000 litres a month now face penalties.

The biggest household water users live in Waterval in Midrand, where each property laps up 159 000 litres a month, trailed by Witpoort at 111 000 litres and Westcliff, where homes use 96 000 litres a month. Households in Parktown use on average 90 000 litres a month, and North Riding properties use 87 000 litres a month.

The areas in Johannesburg that use the most water are:

  • Diepkloof (366 935 kilolitres a month);
  • Far East Bank (214 820 kilolitres);
  • Alexandra (172 563 kilolitres);
  • Houghton Estate (124 527 kilolitres); and
  • Dainfern (101 311 kilolitres).

The city says that it is working on reducing water consumption, especially in the top 30 usage areas that are mostly situated in the northern suburbs, including Dunkeld, Hyde Park, Westcliff and Athol.

Meanwhile, the department of water affairs has warned Gauteng’s 13‑million users that water must be used sparingly, with the Vaal River at its lowest level ever.


Measures taken by eThekwini (the greater Durban area) include shutting down the water supply overnight to reach its target of 15% water savings.

The area’s supplier, Umgeni Water, is also considering implementing a drought levy on the municipality, among others, to ensure that the water left can last until the drought breaks.

eThekwini’s biggest household water users consume on average 43 499 litres a month and live in Broadway, Glen Anil, La Lucia and Umhlanga. Hot on their heels are the residents of Rossburgh, Clairwood, Ocean View and the Bluff, who sponge up about 42 618 litres a month, and Jacobs and Isipingo, where homes use some 42 051 litres a month.

Waterfall, Kloof, Pinetown, Dawncliffe and Reservoir Hills use on average 41 445 litres a month, and residents of Waterloo, Redcliffe, Belvedere and uThongathi average 39 246 litres a month.

The areas in eThekwini with the highest monthly water consumption are:

  • Shallcross, Welbedacht, Montclair and Malvern (combined consumption of 1 166 130 kilolitres a month);
  • Durban city centre, Umbilo, Morningside and Claire Hills (1 140 240 kilolitres);
  • Waterfall, Kloof, Pinetown, Dawncliffe and Reservoir Hills (948 870 kilolitres);
  • Umlazi and Inwabi (912 570 kilolitres); and
  • Mount Edgecombe, Phoenix, Brookdale and Shastri Park (820 890 kilolitres).

eThekwini’s head of communications, Tozi Mthethwa, says these figures are based on consumer sales meter measurements and do not reflect water lost through illegal connections, unmetered connections or system leaks.

Cape Town

Attempts to obtain figures from the City of Cape Town were unsuccessful.

The Mail & Guardian emailed the head of utilities, Gisela Kaiser, three weeks ago requesting water usage information. She sent the request to media liaison officer Simon Haytham, who said he’d approached “the department to see whether we have this kind of data. We’ll let you know once they get back to us.”

This week, he said in response to the M&G’s follow-up emails: “We will respond as soon as possible.”

Go to for an interactive graphic

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Athandiwe Saba
Athandiwe Saba

Athandiwe Saba is a multi award-winning journalist who is passionate about data, human interest issues, governance and everything that isn’t on social media. She is an author, an avid reader and trying to find the answer to the perfect balance between investigative journalism, online audiences and the decline in newspaper sales. It’s a rough world and a rewarding profession.

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