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No end in sight to water woes

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...the new pump station at Riverton, which will require another complete shutdown of water, will be commisioned in mid-May

Picture: Supplied

WITH demand outstripping supply to the extent that no water is coming into the Newton Reservoir from Riverton currently during the day, city residents can expect the newly implemented water restrictions to remain in place for the foreseeable future.

The DFA held an exclusive interview with the executive director of Infrastructure and Services at the Sol Plaatje Municipality, Boy Dhluwayo, on Friday, during which he explained the need for the level five water restrictions as well as the municipality’s plans to address the water situation in the city.

By Friday lunchtime, the water level at the Newton Reservoir had already reached crisis proportions, dropping to around 8ft.

“The issue at this stage is the high consumption in the city and it was important that the municipality came up with a plan to address the situation before it developed into an even bigger crisis. We know from previous experience that if the reservoir runs dry, it takes a long time to fill it up again and high-lying areas could be left without water for several days.”

According to Dhluwayo, as soon as the reservoir starts filling up again and reaches acceptable levels the restrictions will be lifted.

“Once the levels return and stabilise at around 12ft to 15ft, we will go back to just the nightly shutdowns and perhaps look at even reducing the period when the water will be off. That is why we are asking the community to co-operate with us and use water as sparingly as possible, and only where absolutely necessary, so that we can get through this crisis period. As soon as the situation returns to normal, and the levels increase, we will retreat.”

During the shutdowns, the municipality is able to raise the levels by around 1.4ft.

Dhluwayo said the situation became dire on Tuesday last week when the levels dropped from 12ft to 8ft, despite the fact that the municipality was pumping at full capacity from Riverton.

“The fact that the levels at the reservoir are dropping, even while we are pumping at full capacity, means that not only is no water coming into Newton, but the reservoir is also supplementing the network.”

He explained that at 8ft, the pumps were higher than the water level. “If the pumps go off, we will not be able to start them again if the level is below 8ft.”

During the nightly shutdown, the water feed to Galeshewe and Roodepan is also blocked off, resulting in the entire city being without water and also allowing more water to flow to the reservoir.

Looking at immediate plans to address the current situation, Dhluwayo stated that a service provider would be appointed to do an assessment on the 965mm pipeline from Riverton to the city.

“Once this assessment has been completed, we will have a better idea of the extent of leaks on the pipeline, where they are situated and what are the best ways of addressing the problem areas, whether through cathodic protectors, sleevelines or replacing the pipeline completely in areas of extreme erosion.”

According to the municipality’s own estimation, around 36% of the water pumped from Riverton is lost as a result of leaks and broken pipes. “We do know that currently there are at least three leaks on the 965mm pipeline near Midlands.”

Dhluwayo added that the new pump station at Riverton, which will require another complete shutdown of water, will be commissioned in mid-May. “By then it should be a bit cooler and water consumption should have decreased.”

The new pump station will have a higher capacity than the current one of 1 500 litres of water a second which, according to Dhluwayo, should be sufficient to keep up with the demand.

In the longer term, a new master plan for water and sanitation has already been drawn up, although it still needs to be presented to the city council and adopted.

“The master plan, which will be included in the IDP (Integrated Development Plan) budget includes the building of a new dedicated pipeline from Riverton to Newton, a reservoir at Carter’s Ridge, which will address pressure problems in that area, as well as the replacement of old water pipes.”