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City faces another 24hr shutdown

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'If residents curb their water usage, we will not have a serious problem'

File photo: African News Agency (ANA)

WITH city residents having turned a deaf ear to the pleas of the Sol Plaatje Municipality to reduce water consumption, Kimberley is facing another 24-hour shutdown this weekend.

Municipal spokesperson Sello Matsie said yesterday that residents had not given their full co-operation to the local authority to save water.

“In winter, residents still bath, use water for cooking and all other necessary functions, yet we are able to cope with the consumption. In summer, however, people use additional water for their gardens and for recreational purposes. What we are requesting is that people revert to the winter consumption and only use water for essential purposes,” Matsie said.

He added that last weekend, with the shutdown from noon on Saturday to noon on Sunday, the municipality was able to increase the level at the Newton Reservoir from around 8.3ft to 12ft.

“We are currently sitting on around 12ft. During the day, we are not able to pump enough water from Riverton to meet the demand for water, so the level drops to around 10.6ft, but in the morning, after the nightly shutdowns, it is back up to around 12ft.”

Each foot at the reservoir is, according to Matsie, equivalent to around 15 million litres of water.

“If residents curb their water usage, we will not have a serious problem and we will be able to prevent the planned weekend shutdowns and possibly even the nightly shutdowns. At this stage, however, it is pretty certain that we will have to shut water again at midday on Saturday until midday on Sunday this weekend.”

Matsie said that the aim was to raise the level at the reservoir to between 15 and 16ft. “At this level, we are in a comfortable position where, if something goes wrong, for example a power failure, we will still be able to provide water to Kimberley.”

He said on Friday last week, for example, there was a power failure and because of the low level at the reservoir the municipality was not able to get both pumps to switch on to pump water to the high pressure tower.

“Anything below 8ft means we cannot pump water.”

According to Matsie, there is a decommissioned pump station at the reservoir which was able to pump at 6ft, but this has not been in use for a number of years. “We are looking at refurbishing this station and getting it back up and operational asap, as one way of addressing the current crisis.”

He admitted that the local authority did not have the capacity to force residents to cut their water usage. “As the managers of this essential resource, we are therefore forced to rely on mechanical restrictions, like the nightly and weekly shutdowns, as this is the only weapon in our arsenal to ensure that we do not run out of water.

“Ultimately, if residents do not use less water and do not co-operate we will be forced to increase the shutdowns for longer periods of time. Our aim is to provide water for the maximum period possible over a 24-hour timespan but we are restricted by the non-cooperation of residents.

“It is true that there are burst pipes – this is something that will happen as our infrastructure is old. We will have leaks and we admit that this situation is not the fault of the public.

“It is our infrastructure and we should manage and maintain it but we are appealing to residents to join hands and to work together with us to try solve the current crisis. Together we can do do this.”

According to Matsie, there are some residents who are fortunate in that even during the shutdowns they still have water. “It is not because they are preferred but it is just the way the network operates. During the shutdowns the high-lying areas do not have water, while those residents in low-lying areas might have a trickle.”

He added further that this was not a political issue. “This is a very serious matter and the reality is that currently we are not able to meet the demand for water. These shutdowns are not because of pipe bursts or faults on the line – they are the result of an emergency situation.”

He added that the heatwave was aggravating the situation. “When it is overcast, even if there is only a little bit of rain, the consumption immediately drops by around 10%.”

The DA in the Northern Cape said yesterday that its premier candidate, Andrew Louw, would accompany the entire DA caucus of the Sol Plaatje Municipality on oversight inspections at various water purification plants and pumping stations in Kimberley today.

“The purpose of the inspections is to conduct a fact-finding mission and to establish to what extent the current water crisis in Kimberley has been worsened by man-made factors. For that reason, engineers will be accompanying us,” Louw said.

“Service delivery had been adversely affected by the ongoing water woes in the city, with hospitals and clinics now being called upon to make their own contingency plans after the Robert Sobukwe Hospital reportedly ran dry. New water restrictions will also have a negative impact on businesses. But while residents have to bear the brunt of water restrictions, it seems as though the municipality is unwilling to provide lasting solutions.”

Matsie said yesterday that the municipality welcomed any legal structures that wanted to inspect the city’s water infrastructure.

“We are happy to explain and show the DA as this is the situation in which we find ourselves in. It is not a situation that we have manufactured and any oversight visit is welcomed.”