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COME TO JOBURG! Global demand for water is greater than ever and rising. Driving demand are population growth and mobility, rising living standards and changes in food consumption. “With increasing shortages, good governance is more than ever essential for water management,” says a UN official. “Combating poverty also depends on our ability to invest in this resource.” With a world class product, Johannesburg Water is ahead of the game, Lusanda Jiya tells Colin Chinery. 2

Johannesburg Water FEATURE


uestions from World Cup visitors arriving at O.R. Tambo International Airport: will I get tickets, which nation will lift sport’s most coveted trophy, what’s the weather like, and… is Johannesburg’s drinking water safe? With daytime highs in the 60s and night time lows near 40, the reception might be a little too warm, but relax; Joburg’s water is as fresh and as safe as back home. Perhaps more so says Johannesburg Water’s Managing Director Gerald Dumas, reflecting that in parts of Europe it is common to see signs indicating when it is not safe to drink the tap water. “Sometimes we are even scared to brush our teeth and we go out (in Europe]) and buy a bottle of water. So, our water is safe.” Johannesburg Water’s network supplies some 3.8 million people from Orange Farm to Midrand, and Roodepoort to Alexandra. Recently it won the “Blue Drop” award,

with its regulator, the Department of Water Affairs saying the city has the cleanest water nationally and among the best in the world. Speaking at a briefing on the R3.1 billion programme of improvements and replacements within the city’s 10 000km water-mains network, utility’s laboratory support manager, Russel <co correct> Rimmer, said each month some 500 samples are taken and analysed to ensure compliance with the SANS 241 standard - more than the legally required number.

Joburg gets top award Johannesburg Water (JW) was formed in January 2001 as an independent company with the city of Johannesburg as sole shareholder. This is an operational model known as corporatisation, promising efficiency gains comparable to those of privatization while permitting greater state involvement that can mitigate


negative social risks inherent in privatisation. Shareholder responsibilities are delegated to an appointed board of directors, with an executive committee (EXCO) overseeing service delivery standards. With annual turnover topping R4 billion, services are provided along business principles with the aim of ensuring customer satisfaction and cost recovery. Residents throughout the city says JW, can look forward to improving levels of service and additional water connections in areas where they do not exist. “When JW came together it was an amalgamation of water departments of the smaller municipalities now incorporated in the city of Johannesburg. Initially it made of loss of just over R200m a year, but within three years this had been turned around to a profit of over R300m,” says Lusanda Jiya, Executive Manager Communication & Stakeholder Relations at JW.

Losses into gains “This was largely the result of programmes put in place, including the upgrade and rehabilitation of infrastructure across the city. Areas which had the highest water losses and frequency of repeat bursts were targeted, and the halting of these water losses was translated into the gains seen in the financial turn around.” Sanitation is the other arm of Johannesburg Water, JW owning and directly managing six wastewater treatment works treating all the domestic sewage and industrial effluents discharged into its sewers. These works, which treat 930-million litres of sewerage daily, must comply with standards laid down by the national Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF). There are approximately 90 industries in the city discharging large quantities of problematic effluents to Johannesburg Water’s sewers. All industrial effluents from

We … can plan for the maintenance of infrastructure with a capital programme to address aging infrastructure


Johannesburg Water FEATURE

these factories is monitored to ensure that it does not contain dangerous or toxic chemicals. “The current programme targets a number of suburbs across the city with an on-going upgrading of waste water treatment works capacity. We feel comfortable that we are now a financially viable company that can plan for the maintenance of infrastructure with a capital programme to address aging infrastructure,” says Lusanda Jiya.

Ageing infrastructure For JW as with almost any water utility anywhere in the world, addressing the ageing infrastructure problem is the biggest single challenge. Many of the disruptions currently experienced are due to connecting new pipelines laid parallel to the old. JW is also replacing old asbestos cement pipelines prone to leaks and accounting for at least 10% of water losses. “You can only maintain to a point, and then it must be replaced if it is going to cope for the next 80 to 100 years. It’s an on-going

problem and there will never be a time when we can say we have fixed the entire infrastructure and we’ll never have problems again. “In 2007 we did a desk top study looking at the state of the infrastructure, and on that basis planned the capital programme to ensure we had a financing model in place which each year incrementally addressed the ageing infrastructure issue.” At this stage population growth is not a big problem, says Jiya. “New formal settlements have water and sanitation provision planned in but informal settlements and townships inevitably are less predictable.” (By the late 1990s, 24 per cent of the city’s African residents lived in informal dwellings, 15 per cent were without flush toilets and 13 per cent were without tapped water). “There are rows of informal settlements literally mushrooming at different points across the city.” But ahead of them becoming formalised, JW together with the City’s housing department, provides a basis access called a Level of Service 1, providing communal fresh water taps as well as toilet and sanitation facilities.


Johannesburg Water FEATURE

Facing the skills issue While an ageing network is JW’s greatest challenge, skill shortage is a close runner. And in line with the City of Johannesburg skills development programme, it has developed an in-house strategy to address staff skills and competency needs, an approach driven by the programme priorities rather than the compliance requirements of the Skills Development Act. “Shortage of skills is an issue for most sectors of the South African economy, especially specialised and technical skills, and we have met this challenge head on,” says Lusanda Jiya. “There is a long-standing scholarship programme targeting specific areas, in particular engineering. We sponsor scholars to enter university and offer them work experience in their holidays. When they graduate we are able to offer them work.” There is also an internship programme and mentorship by experienced engineers. “It’s about entry into the profession which we facilitate in the internship programme, but also training and up-skilling those already in the job.” Johannesburg Water says Jiya, prides itself on being able to ensure that everyone will have access to water of the best quality in the country.

World class service “We do our best to provide a consistent service, reducing as much as possible all interruptions and interactions to that service. All consumers have access to our call centre where they are able to report all queries or issues with us. “In terms of our infrastructure, the management systems and the technical and professional expertise we have in house enables us to offer to our consumers a quality service, something we take great pride in. Financially we should be unassailable, and maintain for years ahead the level of world class service that we have achieved.” END 6

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