Water shortages are here to stay for Joburg residents

Why do we have these water challenges?

The Vaal River System gate where water is stored and flushed out when it reaches above capacity to allow for treatment and purification of more water. Water is then pumped through a series of water networks and piped into our homes.
Photo: Georgia Cartwright

Got water?

The Southern African region is reportedly suffering one of the worst droughts in recent years. In light of this ongoing drought, the City Of Johannesburg (CoJ) announced further measures following level two water restrictions have been in place since November last year. These new measures include fines of up to R1500 for the misuse of water by using sprinklers, hose pipes to wash cars and the use of municipal water to fill up swimming pools.


William Cullen and Wartenweiler flooded overnight


FLOOD: Water damage caused part of the ceiling at Wartenweiler library to collapse. Flooding from open taps has closed Wartenweiler William Cullen library. Photo: Provided

FLOOD: Water damage caused part of the ceiling at Wartenweiler library to collapse. Flooding from open taps has closed Wartenweiler and William Cullen library.                                                        Photo: Provided

The Willam Cullen and Wartenweiler libraries were flooded overnight after bathroom taps were left open during the water outage yesterday.

Michele Pickover, the principle curator for the historical papers research archives, said that the staff arrived this morning to flooding on the third basement of the William Cullen library where the archives are kept. Not all the archives were affected but the extensive collection of press cuttings used by researchers was damaged by water.

The collection covers the periods from 1940 to 2000 and captures a lot of the South African history. They have been removed from the original holding area to be dried.

“In the event that they are too badly damaged we will have to try digitise them to make them useful still for researchers,” said Pickover. The Rivonia Trial documents, court papers from the trial of former president Nelson Mandela and others, are safe as they are kept in a separate location.

According to Pickover, the university will be providing dehumidifiers to help lessen the dampness and humidity in the basement. In the long run though the department is looking to move to a new building that will house the archives as the current one is not ideal.

William Cullen library was closed today on the advisement of Property and Infrastructure Management Division as they wanted to inspect the danger of water and electricity to the computers and equipment in the building.

Wartenweiler library was partly closed today. It had two of its floors affected by the flood and kept these blockaded as a safety precaution for the students. They are still in the process of assessing the extent of the damage said Paiki Muswazi, the deputy university librarian.

Both libraries will be open tomorrow.



Oui, Oui Wits!

Wits University was the first to try out the waterless urinal in South Africa.

In 1983 the Switzerland based company Addicom introduced the waterless urinal to South Africa during a time when the country was suffering from a major drought.

Statistics show that before waterless systems, urinals used over six litres of water to flush once. Low volume flush toilets and duel function flush toilets

The first waterless urinals allowed urine to be flushed down into the urinal and straight into the pipe line without the need of any water.

However, these initial models were not favoured as they needed constant maintenance and over time would cause a build up of sludge which gave off a bad odour.

The next model was one that allowed urine to pass through a layer of vegetable oil which would float on top of the waste and block any smells.

The oil may have suppressed the smell, but dirt and grime became an even bigger issue. Later an alternative sealant liquid was used to suppress smell. This still caused grime build up over time.

After extensive research and tests, a solution to the problem was finally found when Addicom introduced the new waterless urinal model in 2000.

The new system was patented the “EcoSmellstop” which used a system which sealed off odour and has self cleansing properties. This made maintenance far better than in the past.

The “EcoSmellstop” works with a drain that has a none-return valve, known as the “curtain valve”. This valve opens when a small amount of liquid is poured onto it and then closes again. Women might see this as being the valve, or flap seen in a porter-potty.

In this way no sealant liquid or water is needed to dispose of urine.

Wits University was the first to experiment the invention of the “curtain valve” which was introduced in 2003.

Within the first three years of its introduction, around 100 000 “EcoSmellstop” urinal, curtain-valve systems have been installed throughout South Africa. This allowed municipalities to also provide toilets in areas where it would otherwise be very expensive to do.

The waterless urinal was a success and now many public areas such as taxi ranks, schools and universities country wide, make use of this low maintenance, cost effective solution.  Wits just happened to be one of the first.