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‘Tell us the truth Sol’

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No end in sight to Kimberley’s water woes

CITY residents can expect the current water cut-offs to continue for the foreseeable future while the Sol Plaatje Municipality has warned that it is also considering implementing water restrictions that will see water guzzlers being charged extra for the water.

Concern has meanwhile also been expressed about the effect the water situation, if not resolved soon, will have on the expected 50 000 people who will descend on Kimberley at the beginning of January next year for three to four days for the ANC’s national birthday celebrations.

These were among the issues raised at a public meeting organised by the Northern Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nocci), where residents and business people were given an opportunity to pose questions to various municipal officials regarding specifically the current water crisis, which has seen water cuts since September 1.

According to the city’s water engineer, Motale Selesho, each individual in the city consumes around 200 litres a day (including losses) and this figure needs to be reduced to around 150 litres a day.

He added that the municipality was struggling to meet the current demand for water, pointing out that the consumption of water was around 84 megalitres a day (going up to as much as 102 megalitres a day), while the current pumping capacity of the municipality was only 80 megalitres a day.

Selesho stated that when the levels at Newton Reservoir dropped to below 50% capacity, the municipality was unable to pump water through the tower, adding that this was “a design fault”.

“In order to ensure water, we are forced to restrict water in order to raise the levels at the Newton Reservoir. Initially this was only at night but this did not improve the situation, resulting in the current water shutdowns from 2pm to 4am.

“Unfortunately this situation will stay for some time.”

Although he was unable to give any time frames, it was pointed out that when the levels at the reservoir improved, the city would go back to the nightly shutdowns from 9pm to 4am.

“The current demand is not sustainable, especially as we reach the festive season, resulting in more visitors, and temperatures rise.”

Questions were asked whether the municipality had the technical and the financial capacity to fix the problem the city was currently facing, while concerns were also raised regarding the number of water leaks that were allegedly not attended to by the municipality.

One city resident, Derick Streak, questioned the fact that the new pumping station at Riverton, which was planned in 2015 and cost more than R100 million, was, on completion, still unable to meet the water requirements of the city.

Another resident, Tumelo Mosikare, pointed out that it wasn’t a pumping problem but a management problem, stating that the municipality, by its own admission, was losing 50% of the water pumped from the Vaal River.

“To say the consumption is high, jy lieg (you are lying). It is not due to the usage.”

He further questioned why there was no electrical infrastructure for the new pump station. “Tell us the truth. You keep pointing a finger at the community when the problem is the municipality’s management of the situation.”

In response, Selesho pointed out that the 50% water losses was non-revenue water (including water losses as well as water that was not billed), adding that the physical water losses were between 22 and 25%.

It was also pointed out that the lead time for transformers was around 10 to 12 months. “We envisaged that we would have a problem with the transformers and, as a result, two new ones have already been ordered and are in Johannesburg, ready for delivery,” the city’s electrical engineer, Arend Groenewald, explained.

He added that currently there was no spare capacity on the old transformers, which he stated were also very sensitive. The two new ones that were ordered, however, were 10 MVA each, meaning that there would be spare capacity in the future.

In response to a question from a resident, the acting municipal manager, Thami Mabija, acknowledged that the demand for water in the city was very high and the municipality would have to deal with this demand. “We are discussing proper water restrictions so that those using more than their allocation will have to pay.”

The executive director of technical services, Boy Dhluwayo, stated that the municipality was facing challenges with regard to the theft of copper cables and vandalism of infrastructure.

“Much of this infrastructure is deep in the bush.”

He added that the municipality had a security contract costing more than R1 million a month, but this had been terminated.

“Not only is theft and vandalism a problem but the main pipe from Gogga Pump Station to the Homevale Waste Water Treatment Works is collapsing, resulting in sand and silt filling the pipe and ending up in the settling tank at Homevale.”

He stated that a new pump line had been commissioned from Gogga to Homevale and the expected completion date for this was December.

The city’s executive mayor, Patrick Mabilo, pointed out that out of respect to the community, the municipality’s entire infrastructure team had attended yesterday’s discussion session.

“We will go back and reflect on the issues raised. We know you are angry, disgusted and unconvinced but we need to keep this platform and dialogue and not spoil it.”

The president of Nocci, Marie Parsons, pointed out that the business community was ready and willing to assist the municipality. “The municipality must not see us as a threat. By working together, we can go forward.”

She added, however, that many people had expressed concern on how the city would cope with the influx of an expected 50 000 people for the ANC’s birthday celebrations at the beginning of January if the water situation was not sorted out.