Wa­ter li­cence deal brings re­lief to farm­ers

Talk of the Town - - News - NTOMBENTSHA MSUTU

A wa­ter li­cence and wa­ter agree­ment have finally been is­sued for the use of wa­ter on lo­cal farm­steads in Nd­lambe to the Depart­ment of Wa­ter Af­fairs and San­i­ta­tion (DWAS), but not be­fore a lo­cal at­tor­ney was ap­pointed to deal with the mat­ter.

Farm­ers around the Fish River and out­ly­ing ar­eas have been bat­tling as their wa­ter re­sources have been de­pleted, some now com­pletely de­void of wa­ter, since Ama­tola Wa­ter and DWAS sanc­tion the drilling of bore­holes on farms. This was done in an ef­fort to in­crease the amount of wa­ter to other ar­eas east of the Fish River, in­clud­ing Port Al­fred and Bathurst.

Fol­low­ing the ap­point­ment of Port Al­fred-based Audie At­tor­neys, the wa­ter com­mit­tee, made up of af­fected farm­ers, has re­ceived the wa­ter agree­ment they had been seek­ing for the last few years.

The wa­ter com­mit­tee will now mon­i­tor and reg­u­late the amount of wa­ter ex­tracted from the three 200m bore­holes.

Com­mit­tee chair­man, Mal­com Cock, said that the pumps on these bore­holes ex­tracts 47,000 l each per hour, a to­tal of 3,384-mil­lion litres in 24-hours, which re­sulted in five farm­ers los­ing bore­holes, springs as well as wet­lands dry­ing up.

“These wa­ter sources have never dried up be­fore, even in the most se­ri­ous of droughts.This year two bore­holes at Riet River Mouth dried up. The first hole was drilled in 1985 and dried up ap­prox­i­mately four years ago, the sec­ond was then drilled and it’s never been suc­cess­ful.”

A geo­hy­drol­o­gist was brought in to in­ves­ti­gate the mat­ter and Cock spent six hours show­ing him the de­struc­tion. “He was hor­ri­fied,” said Cock. “There is no doubt that had this scheme been left unchecked, the en­tire area west of the Riet River to the R67 and up to Hayes Sid­ing would have suf­fered,” he said.

Now that wa­ter ex­trac­tion will be con­trolled, re­cov­ery to the sur­round­ing area will slowly re­turn. The wa­ter li­cense and agree­ment states that if con­di­tions are not ad­hered to, the wa­ter scheme will be closed down.

“The five com­plainants have all suf­fered a lot fi­nan­cially,” ex­plained Cock. “For the last 33 months we have carted wa­ter to one half of our farm. We run ap­prox­i­mately 400 heifers and, up un­til re­cently, we had 200 sheep ewes and their prog­eny, but the sheep were sold due to drought and wa­ter prob­lems.

“Our ac­cess road to five land own­ers was de­stroyed by this pro­ject, caused by the de­vel­op­ers turn­ing the road into a drainage line. Ide­ally, a sec­ond wa­ter com­mit­tee should mon­i­tor the Mans­field scheme, the sup­posed big­ger wa­ter sup­plier, thus al­le­vi­at­ing the Olive Burn Scheme.”

The depart­ment of wa­ter af­fairs and san­i­ta­tion has al­ways main­tained that it is the com­plainant’s faults for los­ing their bore­holes as they had not reg­is­tered them and, there­fore, never knew of these ex­ist­ing be­fore the scheme was in­tro­duced.

Cock also added that the wa­ter from the three sup­ply bore­holes was so sa­line that live­stock could not drink it and it would be wrong of the farm­ers to ac­cept and be sup­plied as com­pen­sa­tion as this would re­sult in an open in­vi­ta­tion for pump­ing to be ex­ploited.

“To pu­rify such sa­line wa­ter, one-third is dis­carded in the process, so why was a de­sali­na­tor not in­stalled to pu­rify sea wa­ter?”

Yet there is still work to be done, but Cock seemed sat­is­fied that the farm­ers would now be pro­tected from the ex­ploita­tion of this most valu­able re­source.

“Our next ef­fort will be to get Ama­tola Wa­ter to cap two of their 200ml bore­holes which they drilled but are not be­ing used. One of these is an arte­sian bore­hole that for two years spewed thou­sands of litres into the sur­round­ings.

“My neigh­bour did his best by weld­ing a plate over the hole to cap It, Ama­tola Wa­ter said he had capped in in­cor­rectly and should have filled it with con­crete,” said Cock.

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