Water licence deal brings relief to farmers
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.