/ 15 March 2022

Water conservation and water demand management in Johannesburg

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What is water conservation for Johannesburg Water? Typically, when one is introduced to the  term, the immediate thought in most cases is related to the concept of rainwater harvesting during significant downpours, and that is where it ends. To Johannesburg Water, water  conservation is a whole value chain, primarily centered on the strategies and processes to  efficiently supply water of high standard in quality and the collection thereof in the most  optimised manner, to ensure sustainability.  

Johannesburg Water sources its water from Rand Water, the largest water utility in Africa, which supplies potable water to Gauteng province and other areas of the country. Johannesburg  Water supplies 1.6-billion litres of potable water per day to the City of Johannesburg, through  a water distribution network of 12 288km. The wastewater collection network spans 11 710km in the City of Johannesburg. 

To understand the direct relationship of water conservation to the water supply and  wastewater collection network is the premise of the framework that Johannesburg Water  formulates its value chain appreciation for water conservation in the City. Without delving into  the intricate details of the working parts of water conservation strategies as a whole, a quick  synopsis can be presented to provide the operational context, from an educational platform.  

Johannesburg Water has embarked on reservoir management post water sourcing from Rand  Water reticulation management. Using the vast network, the user end takes over before  collection; wastewater is then collected via a separate vast network, and finally the  wastewater is treated and discharged; Johannesburg Water operates six treatment  facilities. All elements of these processes are the direct responsibility of Johannesburg Water  as an organisation, with the less direct element being customer use and behaviours. 

The formal encompassing description of water conservation includes all the policies,  strategies and activities to sustainably manage the natural resource of fresh water, to protect  the hydrosphere, and to meet the current and future human demand. This is where water  demand management enters the picture, dealing with usage requisitions and applicable factors, which include population size, household structural consumption, and the growth and affluence of the intricate parts of the society being serviced. The other  component that can be attributed to societal factors affecting water demand management includes the economic environment; the City of Johannesburg is rated as one of the most affluent in South Africa.  

What is water demand management for Johannesburg Water? The Water Research  Commission (WRC) describes water demand management as the comprehensive reforms  and actions to optimise existing water supplies. To simplify this in a Johannesburg Water  context, the City of Johannesburg is one of the fastest-growing cities in respect to population numbers. This means that there is an ever-growing need for water in direct correlation to the growth activities; this is essentially what water demand describes.

The management aspects are the strategic measures and essentially the responses that  Johannesburg Water and the City can come up with to deal with the demand. Again, the idea  is not to delve too deep into the intricacies, but essentially the organisation needs to ensure that the infrastructure (new pipelines) is available to deliver water as per service demand. In  addition, Johannesburg Water needs to come up with improved tools to manage the  delivery and services level demands.