Despite rain, Makana municipality still cannot provide water consistently

Makhanda communities have had water shedding and cuts for over a year now

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Residents of Nkanini town in Makhanda collect water from a Gift of the Givers water tanker in October 2020. Archive photo: Lucas Nowicki

  • For over a year, Makhanda residents have been dealing with water shedding and cuts.
  • Following heavy rains late last year which filled Howiesons Poort and Glen Melville dams, residents expected the water cuts to end, but this never happened.
  • Broken infrastructure is still severely restricting the amount of water the municipality is able to pump.

Makana municipality remains in the grip of a severe water shortage, despite significant rainfall during December and January. The municipality is finally providing residents with a daily supply of water for the first time in over a year.

For the last two or so weeks, we are aware that there has been steady water supply daily in the centre and western parts of the city.

The James Kleynhans Water Treatment Works which supplies Makhanda east, gets its water from the Orange and Fish rivers as well as the Glen Melville Dam. It currently has the capacity to pump a maximum of 13 megalitres per day.

The Waainek Water Treatment Works, which previously supplied the west, gets its water from the Howiesons Poort and Settlers dams. When operational, it has a pumping capacity of about eight megalitres per day.

In 2019, the Howiesons Poort and Settler dams dried up, forcing the municipality to rely solely on the James Kleynhans facility for most of the last two years. The facility, however, does not have the pumping capacity to supply the entire town with water. This forced the City to implement water-shedding, where residents would get running water every second day.

In late 2021, heavy rains filled Howiesons Poort and Glen Melville dams while Settlers reached 30% — the highest it has been for many years.

Residents expected the water cuts to end, but this never happened. Instead, the Makana Municipality recently announced on its Facebook page that it will “gradually be moving towards daily supply, depending on [dam] levels”.

“It’s been over three months since we moved out of the drought. There shouldn’t be any need for rotation,” Tim Bull, secretary of Makana Residents Association (MRA) told GroundUp.

Bull said the association’s recent inspection at the water treatment plants raised alarming questions about the facility’s water pumping capacity. He said only two of the four pumps are operational at the James Kleynhans Water Treatment Works, with one frequently tripping. At Howiesons Poort, only one of three pumpsets work.

“If a pump fails at either pump station, there is no viable contingency as water would have to be transported by road. It would likely take two to three weeks to source and fit a replacement pump. The missing pumps are also an ongoing problem as neither pump station can pump at full capacity” said Bull.

Last Thursday, the MRA met municipal officials to discuss the chaotic water supply since December 2021. In a report following the meeting, Bull wrote that the City’s director of Infrastructure told them that three repaired pump motors would be installed at James Kleynhans Treatment Works this week and that a new pump would be purchased for Howieson Poort soon.

The municipality did not reply to numerous requests for comment.

Meanwhile in Hlalani, residents say it’s been about 17 months since the community has had consistent running water.

Resident Nosiphokazi Mali said the last time they had water in Hlalani was in 2020 October. “We don’t know why the municipality is ignoring us,” she said.

Zukiswa Matinise from Extension 6 in Ematyeni Squatter Camp said they pay R100 a month for water from people with rain tanks. She estimates that there are about 600 residents in her area. “We don’t even have communal taps. We wrote a letter to our previous ward councilor Mncedisi Gojela in June 2021 but no action was taken,” she said.

“We have no other option but to pay R100 to people with tanks. Some of us are not working and depend on child support grants and the R350 SRD grant.”

Nomakhwezi Madikwa from Extension 10, which has thousands of households, said the water from their taps is murky and has a strange taste despite them boiling it first.

Questions sent to the municipality’s communications officer Yoliswa Ramokolo and director of engineering, infrastructure, water, sewage, Asanda Madyibi-Gidana, were not answered.

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TOPICS:  Water

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