A Case for Strong Municipal Governance: The Water Supply of Pretoria 1855–1935
The city of Pretoria, South Africa, was found at an artesian water source, exceptional in quality and quantity – its only source from 1855 until 1935. Despite being supplied so abundantly, Pretoria suffered the same problems with water supply and sanitation that were evident elsewhere in South Africa. This was due to deficiencies in municipal government. When the town was founded, it was managed by a magistrate, appointed by and reporting to the central government. The main reason for the unhygienic environment was the lack of clear authority in the nineteenth century. After 1903 the situation improved rapidly when the municipality, under the direction of a competent city engineer, could focus on improving its infrastructure. The limit of the water source in Fountains Valley was reached only in the 1920s, which forced the municipality to limit the lavish consumption of water by the Pretoria residents. This led to the introduction of comprehensive metering in 1927, which only curtailed the consumption by 15 per cent – much less than hoped for. The wasteful water use practices of Pretoria were not easily eradicated and a new water scheme had to be hastily built to augment the city's water supply.