Unpaid Bills Mount as Johannesburg Water Pipes Burst at Alarming Rate

Joburg is cutting off water and electricity in poor areas and nursing homes, and enforcing outstanding payments at roadblocks while government departments owe hundreds of millions in unpaid water bills.

According to a report tabled at the city council, government departments and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) owed Johannesburg Water R636-million by the end of 2022.

The figure is likely to go up in 2023 as the city struggles with lower revenues.

The chart shows that the Gauteng Department of Health owes the most, at R340-million, followed by the departments of housing and education. The passenger rail agency, Prasa, owed Johannesburg R72-million at the end of 2022, while Transnet owed R66-million.

The debts matter because Johannesburg Water, a utility run on private sector principles, has a R20-billion infrastructure backlog and is battling a series of water crises.

Two-thirds of the city was hit by water cuts last month, marking a year since Daily Maverick reported on Johannesburg’s Day Zero.

As of 13 October 2023, at least 18 reservoirs were at critical levels, while 40 reservoirs were being “throttled” between 9pm and 4am to restore water levels. This leaves many areas short of water at night.

“The reason it [the debt] matters is that Joburg Water is suffering from very limited funds. Pipe replacements must be done. Joburg Water is only replacing 12km to 15km a year; the minimum should be…

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