Urban and hydroponic farmers are bracing themselves for Gauteng’s 54-hour water disruption starting this morning (Monday, 15 November), and fear that the reduced water supply will put them in a potentially devastating predicament.
Some farmers in the province are worried that the two-day shutdown of a main supply pipe, as announced by Johannesburg’s bulk water supplier Rand Water, will disrupt their own operations and be a big blow to food producers already affected by the city’s existing water woes.
Rand Water said earlier that cutting the water supply was necessary for work on their raw water pipe, which supplies the Vereeniging water purification plant.
This is expected to impact water supply from the Eikenhof pump station to the south of Johannesburg, the CBD and northern and western areas where supply will be reduced by 25%. Water supply from the Swartkoppies system to the central CBD will be reduced by 50%.
Water tanks to be delivered
Sibongile Cele, a hydroponic farmer in Hillbrow, says a water shutdown will be devastating to her because water is the moving force behind her hydroponic business.
“Hydroponic farmers have to farm with water. If there is no water, our farming is affected because we need to have water for our plants to survive,” she tells Food For Mzansi.
Rand Water’s Moses Phalandwa tells Food For Mzansi that affected areas will have water tankers delivered to them.
Cele says, however, that this does not benefit farmers in her area since they are always the last to get water as households take priority.
Despite the authorities’ recommendation that residents do not fill up buckets and bottles to prepare for the disruption, Cele explains that she and other hydroponic farmers in her area had to resort to filling up their JoJo tanks in order to prepare for a worst-case scenario.
“What we ended up doing was to get JoJo tanks so that we always have water when water shedding occurs, which is a contribution to the water cuts we already have.”
Residents not to panic
Brendon Martens, CEO of the Urban Agriculture Initiative, says that they have also stored additional water at their farm. The initiative is a social enterprise and works to develop agricultural activity in urban areas in Johannesburg.
It has been operational since 2017 and this will not be the first time the farm will have to endure water interruptions to the city. Martens further explains that the city has tried to mitigate its water challenges by installing backup tanks. This gives them between 24 and 48 hours of backup water, depending on how long the city is affected.
“There are always some water issues somewhere here at some point. It got a bit better for a while and then it got worse again in the last 12 months, which is why we implemented upgrades on our farms to accommodate water outages. But we are very used to water interruptions in the Johannesburg CBD,” he says.
Meanwhile Johannesburg Water communications officer Eleanor Mavimbela told 702 that it was not a complete shutdown but a supply reduction to residents, adding that in areas where there will be no water, they will try to assist with alternative water supply where it is feasible.
“Once everybody starts filling up buckets and bottles of water, we’re actually draining the system. We try to alleviate fear and urge residents not to panic,” she said.
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