Tough water restrictions after Fest

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The shortage of dam water in the Makana Municipal means that shortly after the National Arts Festival the flow of water in our pipes will be severely reduced every night.  Dali Mlenzana, Makana Director of Engineering and Infrastructural Services delivered this message at a Grahamstown Residents’ Association meeting at the Grahamstown Bowling Club on Monday evening.

Mlenzana added that his offices were finalising a set of restrictions to reduce water consumption. The restrictions will be serious and he hoped that citizens would encourage each other to save water because the municipality does not have the capacity to enforce the restrictions.

One resident said the municipality ought to campaign in schools teaching young children about the importance of saving water. She suggested the children would serve as the conscience of their elders.

Mlenzana explained that Grahamstown has two main sources of water. Glen Melville Dam feeds water into the James Kleynhans Water Treatment Works which mainly supplies Grahamstown East. The Settlers feeds Howieson’s Poort dam which pumps water to the Waainek Water Treatment Works, the main supply for Grahamstown West.

Glen Melville is well-supplied because it receives water from the Gariep Dam via the Great Fish River.  The Gariep is the largest dam in the country and is almost full thanks to recent rains in the Orange River’s catchment area. However, James Kleynhans is being stretched beyond its design capacity and is currently not able to keep up with demand from Grahamstown East.  The Director said that upgrades already underway should see it double its capacity to 20ML per day by December 2018.  At that point it will be able to serve most of Grahamstown, but currently provides about 60%.  Dam water provides the other 40% of what we currently use.

Settlers dam has dropped to 27%.  At this level the pumps are sucking air, so pumping has to be reduced to prevent damaging the pumps.  Divers are being employed to investigate how much of the remaining water can be pumped.  Measures will then be taken to alter the inlets to allow further pumping.  Mlenzana cannot say how much of the remaining water can be used, and it was indicated that only 15% is likely to be available.  This equates to 6 weeks at current usage of 8.2ML per day.  Settlers dam has never been cleaned so he is not sure how bad the situation is.  Makana has hired divers from Blackwater Diving Company to inspect the bottom of the dam and take photographs.

Similarly with Howieson Poort Dam, which is much smaller, special measures are required to pump below 60% to prevent vortexing. It had dropped to 69% by Monday.  At 8.2ML per day we use about 1% of Howieson Poort water per day.  That gives us a further 69 days if the dam can be emptied.

Residents at the GRA meeting were also concerned about the precarious state of the municipality’s finances. It is believed that Makana owes over R35 million to Amatola Water, the company that has been managing local water resources.  GRA is informed that a payment plan has been agreed to keep Amatola.  We cannot express confidence however, because it took months to agree a payment plan around Christmas with Eskom and the municipality has already defaulted on that plan, with Eskom once again threatening to cut electricity.

When questioned, the Director said it is difficult to give accurate figures for water losses to leaks, but the gap between what Makana provides and what is billed is about 30%.  This does not take into account water that the municipality itself uses. He stated these losses are mostly caused by old valves and pipes. Urgent repairs can be delayed as Makana struggles to buy vital replacement parts.

It was also pointed out that when the water pressure is altered to reduce supply the old valves will ‘sweat’ meaning that water will seep out.  This means water being visible on the surface, but does not indicate a serious leak.  The reason is that in the old ‘ball stopcock’ type valves it is water pressure that keeps the valve tight closed, with reduced pressure the ball can move out of position allowing water to seep out.

As soon as Makana has finalised its plans to cope with this emergency GRA will assist with communicating further information.

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