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No money to upgrade pipeline

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Before the cost-cutting measures were announced, the municipality budgeted R55.8 million in this financial year (2018/19) for water.

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THERE is no money in the Sol Plaatje Municipality’s budget this year for the upgrading of the main water pipeline from Riverton to Kimberley.

While R23 million has been set aside for pipe replacement over the next three years, only
R5 million has been budgeted for this financial year – and only half of this is likely to be made available as a result of the municipality’s cost-cutting measures.

During his budget presentation speech earlier this year, the former Sol Plaatje executive mayor, Mangaliso Matika, stated that “now that we have dealt with all the leaks, the reticulation network is the next big thing for us. This city is wet; pipes are bursting every day. It is for this reason that this budget is addressing the replacement of the water reticulation network. For this MTREF,
R23 million has been set aside for the pipe replacement programme. Our aim is to preserve water, fix the leaks, reduce water losses and focus on efficiencies in the demand and supply of water. Together, we are indeed moving towards a leading, modern city. We shall invest in infrastructure that is dedicated to service delivery, cost containment and revenue generation.”

Before the cost-cutting measures were announced, the municipality budgeted R55.8 million in this financial year (2018/19) for water.

Ritchie’s Bulk Water Supply was given
R10.5 million in the budget, the Lerato Park Water Project R17.35 million and the Tlhageng Dam
R20 million. The replacement of water meters was given R3 million while the upgrading of the water pipes was apportioned R5 million.

Among the projects earmarked to be cut in order to save money was the budget for various water pipe replacements, with the suggestion that this be cut by 50%, providing a saving of R2.5 million.

Millions of rand over the past few years has already been spent on trying to ensure the provision of water to the city.

The municipality extracts water from the Vaal River at Riverton, located about 35km outside the city. There is a purification plant as well as pump station at Riverton. The purification plant has a production capacity of between 90 and 95 megalitres per day while the pump station has a capacity of 108 megalitres a day. The bulk water distribution line stretches over 45km from Riverton to the Newton Reservoir. While 90 to 95 megalitres a day is pumped from Riverton to Kimberley, the current demand has shot up to between 150 to 170 megalitres a day.

In 2014, city residents were saddled with a massive water tariff hike of almost 15%. In the presentation of his 2014/15 budget, the then mayor, David Molusi, explained the large increase.

“Due to the installation of a new bulk meter which measures the amount of water extracted from the river it has become necessary to further align what has been extracted with the utilisation rate in order to achieve cost recovery,” Molusi explained.

“This has resulted in the need to also correct the tariff setting. This budget correction has a once-off impact on the tariff and in future, the tariff setting will once again be within the normal increases.”

The 2014 budget included R12 million for the installation of high-lift pumps at Riverton.

It was explained that a high-lift water pump was a gravity powered piston that uses the power of water moving downhill to a lift portion of that water above the source.

“There are currently two high-lift pumps which have reached their full capacity and lifespan thus increasing the risk of water availability. As such, this project has been identified as urgent to ensure that the supply is not threatened. The high-lift pumps are internationally imported goods and the process involves the installation and commissioning of the pumps. Two high-lift water pumps shall be procured with the allocated funds.”

A further R7 million was included in the budget that year for zone metering, which started in the 2013/14 financial year, and was set to continue for three years.

“The zone metering project entails the demarcation of the city into zones for the purposes of managing water resources. Currently, the entire water reticulation is interlinked and makes it impossible for the engineers to properly manage the system and attend to service interruptions without affecting the entire city if not neighbourhoods along the route of the interruption. It is also difficult currently to perform water balancing by zone to enable management to understand the demand levels as well as losses per zone. Therefore the project is very crucial for planning of supply, pressure management and maintenance.”

Two years later, in 2016, Molusi announced (in his 2016/17 budget) that the high-lift pumps had finally been ordered from overseas.

“To complete this process a further sum of R13m is allocated.”

The municipality also budgeted R10 million for a new pump station at Riverton.

“Once these series of interventions are completed we will be well on our way to ensure water security and certainty of supply in our municipal jurisdiction. We are fortunate that we are reaching the end of our bulk interventions whilst many other municipalities are only planning similar projects now. We can now confidently focus on reticulation projects knowing that we have the bulk capability to implement these projects,” Molusi stated in his budget speech at the time.

The initial contract for the two high-lift pumps was amended in 2017.

It was explained at the time by the then Sol Plaatje CFO, Lydia Mahloko, that public invites were made to bidders for the tender advertised for the supply, delivery and installation of the new high-lift water pumps at Riverton Water Purification Works.

“This bid was awarded to the qualifying and high scoring bidder, Metsi Projects.”

According to Mahloko, with this project Sol Plaatje Municipality had the following objectives: to ensure sustainable supply of water through continuous pumping with minimum pump failures, and to ensure that pumping capacity is increased to deal with future demands as a result of developments and changing consumer patterns.

“Due to insufficient funds at the date of award, the municipality took a strategic decision to reduce the scope of work from the initially intended four pumps to two pumps. The tender specifications and conditions made allowance for the provision of spares additional to the two pumps. After the tender was awarded, the Project Steering Committee (PSC) held a technical meeting where it was agreed that the spares should be converted to an installed pump at no extra cost. Therefore three new pumps were to be installed instead of two.

“To meet the second objective, it was agreed that a new pump station must be built to house the new pumps, since retrofitting seemed impractical and costly. The new pump station was designed to cater for the installation of four high-lift pumps, as part of forward planning.

“Discussions with the appointed bidder resulted in an agreement to install the fourth pump to avoid cost escalation if this was left to later years of the project, and the process of tendering once more. The cost of the fourth pump is estimated at R6 million.”

A budget allocation of a further R6 million was therefore required.

The reasons given for the amendment were to supply, deliver and install the third pump instead of keeping pump spares, and to supply, deliver and install the additional fourth pump at the new pump station. “The current pump station is old, and using old pumps are uneconomical to operate and maintain with very high electricity consumption.

“To ensure sustainability and security of potable water supply, the new pump station is being built under a different contract with a design to house four high-lift pumps.

“The current high-lift pumps have lost efficiency and reliability, and are struggling to meet current peak water demand.”

This year, according to Matika, in preparation for the commissioning of the new water purification plant at Riverton, the current transformers also needed to be upgraded. A further R4 million was set aside for this in this year’s budget.

It was stated that the project was critical for the commissioning of the plant.

The plant was due to be commissioned in November last year already but on Friday last week it was announced that this would now only take place in May, when the weather is cooler.