History of Rand Water
In 1886 when gold was discovered in the Witwatersrand scarcity of water was a problem.
At the time water was drawn from the Fordsburgspruit, as well as from a spring at the eastern end of Commissioner Street, near the present day End Street. The source was named Natalspruit. Another water point was a spring at the site of the present Johannesburg General hospital in Parktown.
Later it was realised that more water was needed for the processing of ore.
Water Supply by private enterprises
The growing demand for water that reached a demand of between 2, 89 Ml/d and 5, 86 Ml/d, prompted other small companies to start operating, like the Braamfontein Water Company and the Vierfontein Syndicate (1893).
The Braamfontein Water Company supplied some 0, 6 Ml/d to the Parktown area from two wells in that part of the town. The Vierfontein Syndicate supplied water of different qualities, one for mining purposes and the other for potable use.
The first major grant to a private company to supply water on the Witwatersrand was the “Sivewright Concession” of 1887. Sivewright established the Johannesburg Waterworks and Exploration Company, which Barney Barnato took over in 1889.
Water was said to be so expensive then that people opted to cook their food in soda water as it was cheaper than water.
Establishment of the Rand Water Board
After the peace agreement between the British Government and the Boer Republics on 31 May 1902, the British, who gained control of Johannesburg realised that it was imperative to investigate the water supply and sanitation services.
On 8 May 1903 The Rand Water Board was officially established by the Rand Water Board Incorporation Ordinance No. 32 of May 1903 to supply water to the entire area.
The Rand Water Board was to include members of the Johannesburg Town Council, The Chamber of Mines, and other existing local authorities in the Witwatersrand.
In 1904 Rand Water was required to take over the undertakings of the companies at that time supplying or potentially capable of supplying water to the Witwatersrand.
Rand Water was to supply water in bulk only.
Water Supply 1905
It was only in 1905 that Rand Water commenced with full operations.
By 1906 the annual daily consumption of water supplied by Rand Water was about 11 Ml/d and it has been growing ever since.
In fact Rand Water’s major challenge to date has been to augment its water sources to meet the growing demand.
Fast forward to 1913…
Water as a scarce resource in the Witwatersrand, as well as a need to supply a growing population, prompted the Water Board to impose some water restrictions as well as look for other sources of water. Major schemes were developed to respond to the demand.
The following were some of the major development schemes to date:
The Vaal River scheme, which included the Barrage – 1914 – 1924 – yielded 91 Ml/d
Vereeniging Pumping Station – 1924
Zwartkopjes Pumping Station
Vaal Dam – 1938 – 354 Ml/d
Zuikerbosch Pumping Station – 1949
Lesotho Highlands Water Project – 1998
Lesotho Highlands Water Project
Rand Water currently gets its water supply from the Lesotho Highlands.
The scheme was designed to deliver a massive amount of some 2, 2 x 109 m3 of water annually to South Africa
As early as 1954, the Natural Resources Development Council proposed the idea that water might be obtained from Lesotho to augment the water of the Vaal River.
Negotiations between the governments of South Africa and Lesotho started towards the end of the 1970’s.
Representatives of Lesotho, the European Union, the United Nations and the World Bank formally signed a treaty for the development of the project on 24 October 1987 at an estimated cost of R5.5 billion. In 1997 this figure was increased to R9.1 billion for the first phase of the project only.
The scheme was to be constructed in three phases and would include four major dams, Senqu in Lesotho, Ash River in the Free State, Wilge River and ultimately to the Vaal Dam.
In the first phase, the Katse Dam and the Mohale Dam together with a series of tunnels were constructed in the Highlands of Lesotho.
South Africa has to pay R150 million annually to Lesotho, whether the water is used or not, to augment the Vaal Dam water.
Source: 100 Years of Excellence – 1903 – 2003 –
A Rand Water Publication
Research and script: Johann Crooks – Emeritus Professor of Geomorphology
Contributions by Rand Water specialists