/ 14 October 2022

Load-shedding hampers the supply of clean water – Salga

Water Trucks Fill Up And Transport Water To The Reservoir Photo Delwyn Verasamy
Many large metros and municipalities are not prepared for extended electricity outages that disrupt the reliable supply of drinking water and sanitation services

Load-shedding can have severe adverse consequences on the quality and reliability of

municipal water and sanitation services, the South African Local Government Association (Salga) has warned.

The extent and severity of these vary from municipality to municipality “depending on the unique design, condition and operation of municipal water and sanitation systems”, said Sivuyile Mbambato, Salga’s spokesperson. 

Salga’s assertions are backed by a Water Research Commission study, which confirms that infrastructure and water quality gets compromised and that systems across the municipal and water board sector remain vulnerable.

The 2019 study found that the high assurance of electricity supply did not warrant municipalities to have backup plans on its key water services infrastructure, based on the preparedness of a large municipality, Tshwane.

No preparedness for extended outages

“The concern though is that many large metros and municipalities have no preparedness to deal with extended outages,” Salga said. “The consequences of electricity outages for potable water supply can be severe, in extreme cases disrupting the supply completely.” 

This is especially true of much of the Gauteng water supply area, which straddles the continental divide, with most of the water supply having to be pumped and raised before it can be distributed to users. 

“The water sector remains highly vulnerable and there is no regulation that ensures the continuity of supply due to energy.”


Salga said that historic and current financial constraints have led to under-investment in new and existing infrastructure nationally. In 2018, R33-billion more was needed for the next 10 years to achieve water security, according to the national Water and Sanitation Master Plan.

“With Covid-19 and limited economic growth; government investment in water and sanitation infrastructure (new and existing) has not been able to increase,” it said.

“The vulnerable state of municipal water and sanitation systems was confirmed by the 2022 Green and Blue Drop reports. Add to this the current crisis of municipal infrastructure vandalism and theft; and you have systems that are highly vulnerable to unplanned disruptions.”

The sector, led by the Water Research Commission, is undertaking various research projects to quantify the vulnerability of the system and propose measures to minimise the compromise of municipal water and sanitation services quality and reliability, it said.