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Residents ‘gatvol’

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There has been no communication on what will happen to residents who do not abide by the restrictions or who are unaware that they have been implemented.

File photo: African News Agency (ANA)

A SHOCK announcement late on Thursday evening by the Sol Plaatje Municipality of the immediate implementation of stage five water restrictions in the city, has left fuming residents “gatvol”.

Without warning, the municipality issued a statement on Thursday saying that because of the current water situation in Kimberley the municipality has been forced to institute stage five water restrictions, which will include the shutting off of water from the Newton Reservoir at 6pm until 4am daily, while water will also be cut off every weekend from noon on Saturdays until noon on Sundays.

It is believed that the decision was made without consultation by officials in the city’s waterworks department and councillors as well as other top-ranking officials, who had to read about it on social media, were totally unaware of the radical steps taken.

Part of the restrictions, which have come into effect, is that residents will not be allowed to use any water for non-essential purposes, including watering plants or washing cars.

There has been no communication, however, on what will happen to residents who do not abide by the restrictions or who are unaware that they have been implemented.

According to the notice, the restrictions will remain in force until the Newton Reservoir levels have been stabilised at about 15 feet.

City residents have reacted in anger at the implementation of the restrictions, laying the blame for the water problems at the continuous burst water pipes which, they point out, are never fixed by the municipality.

According to the 2016/17 annual report of the Sol Plaatje Municipality, the city loses – either as a result of burst water pipes or stolen water – more than 50% of the water that it pumps and pays for from the Vaal River.

In 2016/17 this amounted to a loss of almost R16 million for the municipality.

The DFA was inundated with calls on Friday where residents pointed to various burst pipes throughout the city that have been leaking for weeks and even months.

“On the main water pipeline which feeds the city from Riverton there is a massive leak near Midlands. This pipe has been leaking for three years already,” one resident pointed out.

Another stated that a burst pipe in Atlas Street has been streaming down the road since the beginning of the year, while in Carrington Road three leaks were reported. “This does not include the pipe in Central Road which is always leaking,” the resident said.

“It breaks one’s heart to see clean water streaming down the road, while we are expected to allow our plants and gardens to die because we cannot water them,” one resident said.

“As long as there is water flowing in the streets and the municipality does nothing about it, I will continue to water my garden,” defiant residents added.

“Kimberley has enough water. It is not the same situation as Cape Town which relies on dams. We get our water from the Vaal River and there is no shortage of water. All we are lacking is the knowledge and expertise.”

Other residents pointed out that despite the water restrictions, the municipality continued to water public gardens and parks.

“The pipeline from Riverton to the Newton Reservoir first feeds the low-lying areas of Galeshewe and Roodepan before it goes to Newton, where it is pumped to the high-lying areas of Kimberley,” one resident stated.

“One needs to question how much of the water that is pumped from the Vaal River is lost and not accounted for – either as a result of broken pipes or from theft. There are also more than 4 000 small-scale miners who receive free municipal water. This is the reason why there is insufficient water to fill up the high-pressure dam at Newton, not because people are watering their gardens but because the municipality has failed over the years to ensure that its infrastructure is properly maintained so now we are sitting with this mess and we, the paying residents, are being punished.”

Many irate residents said the municipality needs to look at its own doorstep before punishing residents.

Northern Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nocci) CEO, Sharon Steyn, has pointed out that the water restrictions were tantamount to a disaster situation.

“We have been asking the municipal manager, as well as the premier, what the contingency plans are in the event of a disaster and we have never received any reply – it appears that there are no contingency plans in place,” said Steyn.

She questioned whether the disaster management team had even been informed of the decision to implement the restrictions.

“Our situation cannot be compared to Cape Town – they were reliant on dams for water. There is enough water in the Vaal River. The question is why is the municipality not able to pump sufficient water from Riverton to meet the needs to residents.”

Steyn pointed out that she had contacted someone in the municipality on Thursday night when she heard about the restrictions.

“The message I received from this person in the municipality is that the public must stop wasting water and watering their gardens and washing their cars, as this is the reason, apparently, why we are in this mess. We have been warned that either we do this or we will end up with no water in a couple of days.”

She added, however, that the municipality had to look at its capacity to pump water at Riverton.

“We have spent millions of rand installing a new pump house at Riverton but did anyone look at whether we were able to pump this water to Kimberley? Was proper planning done at the time?”

Several city residents also questioned the capacity of the municipality to meet the water needs of the city.

“The water situation will never improve until the municipality realises that it needs to replace the entire reticulation system in the city,” a resident pointed out.

“There must be a serious problem with either the supply from Riverton, the ability to store water at the main reservoirs or the simple fact that more water is being used than what can be supplied. In all of these scenarios, the municipality is at fault for not planning ahead by upgrading the whole water supply system to one that is not just sufficient for the current demand, but also future demand.

“Extra pumps at Riverton will possibly help, but the water purification plant needs to be running perfectly, pipelines needs to be in good condition without leaks, reservoirs need to be without leaks, and old infrastructure needs to be replaced and upgraded for the bigger demand.

“The Sol Plaatje Municipality has created this crisis and needs to step up by not only accepting the blame for this situation, but also to come up with a real, workable and permanent solution to this long ongoing issue!”

Another resident pointed out that it doesn’t help shutting off the water at night, because when it is switched on again the sudden pressure in the aging infrastructure just results in more burst pipes.

“For three months already we have had nightly shutdowns supposedly to ensure sufficient levels at Newton and now they want further shutdowns. It just doesn’t make sense – in the meantime our water bills are escalating every month.”