Rand Water invests in emergency power supplies to keep water flowing
The water utility spends R300m on emergency power generators
Rand Water has invested R300m in emergency power supplies to mitigate its reliance on the power grid to maintain an uninterrupted supply of water.
The announcement of the emergency facility comes as the unprotected strike by Eskom workers increased the risk of outages. These also occur regularly as a result of cable theft.
Rand Water, a state-owned enterprise under the Department of Water and Sanitation, supplies about 3.7-billion litres of drinkable water per day, chiefly to Gauteng but also further afield, via a network of more than 3,000km of pipes to 58 service reservoirs. Its customers include municipalities, mines and industry.
Chief operating officer Sipho Mosai said on Wednesday at the launch of the emergency units in Roodepoort that Rand Water was hoping to supplement its power supply with renewable sources, such as solar energy. "We want to go off-grid," he said.
The utility was assessing tender bids from a number of independent power producers.
The project to establish an emergency power generation unit began in 2004 when Rand Water experienced a total loss of electrical power at two major pumping stations due to a failure at two power supply authorities. It led to a widespread lack of water for up to two weeks in some areas. It was the first such event in Rand Water’s 100 years of operation. The 2014 event showed that failure to provide drinkable water to its supply area for an extended period would result in a widespread crisis, the utility said.
An initial amount of R200m was resourced under emergency procurement rules, and the balance of R100m under its normal capex arrangements.
"Everything comes from our revenue," said Mosai. "Rand Water is profitable."
The necessity for the unit did mean that Rand Water had to recover the expenditure from its customers, and that it would presumably pass it on to consumers, said Econometrix economist Laura Campbell.
"It follows that the cost of Eskom’s failure to guarantee a constant power supply, and the cost of cable theft, that has been passed on to Rand Water will be passed on to consumers," she said. "It is similar to Eskom’s attempts to claw back expenditure which has come about as a result of its own problems."