Nomvula: Stop wast­ing wa­ter

Wa­ter is to be trans­ferred from Sterk­fontein Dam to keep lev­els at Vaal Dam above the 25% vol­ume ca­pac­ity

CityPress - - News - POLOKO TAU poloko.tau@city­press.co.za

De­spite plans to di­vert wa­ter from the strate­gic re­serve at Sterk­fontein Dam to the crit­i­cally low Vaal Dam, Gaut­eng residents should brace them­selves for more wa­ter cuts as sup­ply woes are ex­pected to be around for much longer. The govern­ment is press­ing on with strin­gent wa­ter cuts to dras­ti­cally change con­sump­tion pat­terns, par­tic­u­larly in Gaut­eng, where ef­forts to get con­sumers to re­duce their con­sump­tion have been ap­palling.

The wa­ter-stressed Gaut­eng mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are now re­ceiv­ing 15% less wa­ter vol­ume from the prov­ince’s big­gest wa­ter util­ity, Rand Wa­ter, and they are also un­der pres­sure to curb wastage and deal harshly with ir­re­spon­si­ble wa­ter con­sumers.

Fac­ing a bar­rage of crit­i­cism over wa­ter cuts and the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties’ fail­ure to com­mu­ni­cate the sched­uled re­duc­tions to residents, Wa­ter and San­i­ta­tion Min­is­ter Nomvula Mokonyane has partly blamed Gaut­eng mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties for poor wa­ter dis­tri­bu­tion plans.

She said it was the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties’ poor com­mu­ni­ca­tion and their fail­ure to run aware­ness cam­paigns about the loom­ing wa­ter short­age due to the re­lent­less drought and cli­mate change that was worsening the sit­u­a­tion.

Mean­while, wa­ter lev­els in the coun­try’s dams were drop­ping at an alarm­ing rate due to in­suf­fi­cient rains and de­mand that has re­mained high.

“We are fac­ing a ma­jor chal­lenge in Gaut­eng, not be­cause there is no wa­ter in the prov­ince, but be­cause there is no proper wa­ter man­age­ment avail­able,” she said, adding that some mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties thought they could put pres­sure on Rand Wa­ter to re­lease more wa­ter with­out ef­forts on their part to re­duce con­sump­tion, but govern­ment has stepped in and re­fused.

Rand Wa­ter chair­per­son Advocate Mat­shidiso Hashatse said the util­ity’s pat­tern used to be 4 800 mil­lion litres per day and on re­ally hot days it would spike to over 5 000 mil­lion litres per day sup­plied to meet municipal de­mands.

Hashatse said if con­sumers did not heed the call to save wa­ter, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties would be forced to “throt­tle the sup­ply and this would lead to a drop in pres­sure which af­fects higher-ly­ing ar­eas and the wa­ter would not reach those ar­eas be­cause more wa­ter is needed to cre­ate pres­sure”.

As lev­els at ma­jor dams such as the Vaal Dam started drop­ping to be­low 30%, Rand Wa­ter slashed its sup­ply to mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties by 687 mil­lion litres per day from Oc­to­ber, fo­cus­ing on met­ros such as Tsh­wane and Joburg.

Residents started feel­ing the pinch in re­cent days in ar­eas such as Soweto and Midrand, which were left dry for two to three days as the mu­nic­i­pal­ity bat­tled to keep up with the high de­mand.

Mokonyane said residents should brace them­selves as the trend was set to con­tinue un­less con­sumers jumped on board and used wa­ter re­spon­si­bly to re­duce pres­sure on the sup­ply sys­tem. She chal­lenged mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to use their pow­ers and by­laws to en­sure wa­ter was used re­spon­si­bly.

Nev­er­the­less, the govern­ment has de­cided to open the sluice gates from its strate­gic wa­ter re­serve dam to save the coun­try’s eco­nomic hub from run­ning dry as the Vaal Dam reached a cri­sis point of only 26% vol­ume this week. The govern­ment planned to source wa­ter from the Sterk­fontein Dam, nes­tled in the foothills of the Drak­ens­berg Moun­tains in the Free State prov­ince, where about 190 bil­lion litres of wa­ter will gush through the main dam’s out­lets, trav­el­ling for more than 200km down­stream for the next 54 days start­ing to­mor­row, to partly fill the al­most empty Vaal.

The Sterk­fontein Dam, which is cur­rently 91.5% full, is ex­pected to trans­fer only 7% of its ca­pac­ity to the Vaal Dam.

Mokonyane said on Fri­day that the sit­u­a­tion de­manded that the govern­ment tap into its re­serves in the Sterk­fontein Dam which was the third largest dam in the coun­try – just to keep the Vaal Dam lev­els above the crit­i­cal 25% vol­ume ca­pac­ity.

Sterk­fontein will spew just a lit­tle bit into the Vaal Dam, which had dropped to 26% this week with no hope of any up­ward trend any­time soon due to late rains.

“We can’t let it go be­low 25% ... which will af­fect Eskom. We need wa­ter for Eskom to func­tion and we need Eskom to pump wa­ter,” Mokonyane ex­plained.

The Vaal Dam is one of the 14 in­ter­con­nected dams which cre­ate the Vaal River sys­tem. The lat­ter dropped to 49.7% this week com­pared with 68.8% in the same pe­riod last year. Some of the ma­jor com­pa­nies sup­plied by the sys­tem are Eskom and Sa­sol

How­ever, this does not mean once the sluice gates close at Sterk­fontein, prob­lems will be over for Gaut­eng. Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties will still be ex­pected to vig­or­ously im­ple­ment wa­ter re­stric­tions with residents for­bid­den to wash their cars us­ing hose pipes or fill swim­ming pools with municipal wa­ter.

Ekurhu­leni metro has be­come the first metro in the prov­ince to take wa­ter re­stric­tions a step fur­ther af­ter an­nounc­ing that from to­mor­row it will start im­ple­ment­ing wa­ter ra­tioning be­tween 9pm and 5am. This means there will be no wa­ter be­tween those hours.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity has been bat­tling to get its wa­ter con­sumers to save wa­ter and has al­ready slapped thou­sands of them with penalty tar­iffs amount­ing to R1.7 mil­lion in Oc­to­ber for ex­ceed­ing the al­lo­cated wa­ter usage per month. Ekurhu­leni said 3 000 busi­ness units and 41 000 house­holds were pe­nalised. It said wa­ter re­stric­tions re­quired busi­nesses to also re­duce their wa­ter con­sump­tion by up to 15% of their av­er­age an­nual con­sump­tion and house­holds not to ex­ceed 25kl con­sump­tion per month.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity said if the ra­tioning does not work, it will be forced to cut wa­ter sup­ply dur­ing the day as well. “We have no choice but to take this dras­tic step as vol­un­tary wa­ter sav­ing mea­sures by residents have av­er­aged a mere 3.5% a week, a far cry from the re­quired 15%,” the mu­nic­i­pal­ity said. The re­stric­tions also re­quire that no one use sprin­klers or clean pave­ments us­ing hose pipes.

In the City of Joburg, wa­ter re­stric­tions have also not yielded the de­sired re­sults of 15% re­duc­tion in con­sump­tion. Joburg Wa­ter spokesper­son Tidi­malo Chuene said 317 fines had been is­sued to those found con­tra­ven­ing level 2 re­stric­tions since Septem­ber.

PHOTO: ALET PRETORIUS

PARCHED iSi­man­gal­iso Wet­land Park near St Lu­cia

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