Severe water crisis grips SA’s major cities Residents rich and poor have never seen a shortage of this severity.

JOHANNESBURG. – For two weeks, Tsholofelo Moloi has been among thousands of South Africans lining up for water as the country’s largest city, Johannesburg, confronts an unprecedented collapse of its water system affecting millions of people.

Residents rich and poor have never seen a shortage of this severity.

While hot weather has shrunk reservoirs, crumbling infrastructure after decades of neglect is also largely to blame. 

A country already famous for its hours-long electricity shortages is now adopting a term called “watershedding” — the practice of going without water, from the term loadshedding, or the practice of going without power.

Moloi, a resident of Soweto on the outskirts of Johannesburg, isn’t sure she or her neighbors can take much more.

They and others across South Africa’s economic hub of about 6 million people line up day after day for the arrival of municipal tanker trucks delivering water. Before the trucks finally arrived the day before, a desperate Moloi had to request water from a nearby restaurant.

There was no other alternative. A25-litrebucket of water sells for R25, an expensive exercise for most people in a country.

“We are really struggling,” Moloi said. “We need to cook, and children must also attend school. We need water to wash their clothes. It’s very stressful.”

Residents of Johannesburg and surrounding areas are long used to seeing water shortages — just not across the whole region at once.

Over the weekend, water management authorities with Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria, told officials from both cities that the failure to reduce water consumption could result in a total collapse of the water system. That means reservoirs would drop below 10 percent capacity and would need to be shut down for replenishment.

That could mean weeks without water from taps — at a time when the hot weather is keeping demand for water high. The arrival of chilly winter in the Southern Hemisphere is still weeks away.

No drought has been officially declared, but officials are pleading with residents to conserve what water they can find. World Water Day today is another reminder of the wider need to conserve.

Outraged activists and residents call this a crisis years in the making. They blame officials’ poor management and the failure to maintain aging water infrastructure.

 In Johannesburg, run by a coalition of political parties, anger is against authorities in general as people wonder how maintenance of some of the country’s most important economic engines went astray. –

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