Updated 23 February 2015

Load shedding threatens water supply

Capetonians face having to deal with the twin challenges of no electricity AND water, because of Eskom's load shedding.

Load shedding brings with it many challenges but can you imagine not having water and electricity at the same time? This is a possibility for Capetonians, the City of Cape Town confirmed to Health24.

City is working hard

"Load shedding carries with it the risk that water pumps will not be able to provide pressure to higher-lying areas, and/or not fill reservoirs adequately, thus risking the availability of water," said Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services, Councillor Ernest Sonnenberg.

He assured residents that the City is working hard to ensure they are not inconvenienced.

"While there is a risk of interrupted water supply, the City will do everything possible to ensure that the impact to consumers is minimised."

Read: The health dangers of load shedding

Sonnenberg said that pumping stations are dependent on electricity to work. "The supply system is designed in an energy efficient manner, but pumping stations do require electricity to operate."

However, he explained that the greater portion of the city is supplied from the bulk water reservoirs at 110m above mean sea level and therefore relies on gravity rather than pumping stations for its supply.

"Only the fringes around the various mountains require any pumping to higher-level local reservoirs which then supply the immediate areas."

Sonnenberg pointed out that high-lying areas are areas that are situated above the water source that supplies them and therefore rely on pump stations for their supply.

Read: Load shedding sparks food poisoning fear

He also said that there is no need for concern about water safety because of load shedding.

"Water quality in distribution systems is monitored weekly to ensure compliance with National Drinking Water Standards and is considered safe for human consumption."

Sonnenberg said that overall taste complaints are currently lower than for previous years at this time.

Taste complaints reported to the city for comparable periods over the past three years are as follows:
Sept 12 to Jan 13  = 52
Sept 13 to Jan 14  = 47
Sept 14 to Jan 15  = 37
"The number of taste complaints received is actually extremely low in absolute terms, given that drinking water is supplied to in excess of 600 000 connection points," Sonnenberg said.

He said that taste complaints are often associated with the presence of naturally occurring Geosmin algae, which is found in dams and rivers. "The presence of these algae in the water can cause a harmless earthy taste to water," said Sonnenberg.

"Geosmin algae levels are currently low in the source waters, but it needs to be understood this could change rapidly at any time. Should this occur, the water treatment plants will alter treatment processes to mitigate the impact thereof."

Eskom issued a statement on Friday, warning that there is a medium to high risk for load shedding. It added that any unexpected changes on the already constrained power system could result in load shedding.

In his State of the Nation address last week, President Jacob Zuma announced that an amount of R23bn would be given to Eskom to help fix the troubled power utility.

Health implications of no water

A potential health danger that water outages can have on the public is dehydration, especially for infants and elderly people.

"When one is thirsty it is already a sign of being dehydrated," said Health24 resident doctor Heidi van Deventer.

She advised people to try and drink water before they get thirsty and warned on symptoms to look out for.

"Dangerous signs are darkening urine, severe thirst, irritability or lethargy (in children), palpitations, dizziness. It is especially dangerous in children, they dehydrate very quickly.

"If a baby is on formula milk it is even more important to keep some boiled and cooled down water at hand before the water is turned off to give them their milk as needed," said  Van Deventer.

Also read:

The poisons that lurk in most households

Excessive fluoride in drinking water can affect human health

Too much water could be dangerous


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