“This drought is not only a shortage of water: there’s been a drought of ideas.”
Water Research Commission CEO Desigan Naidoo was speaking at the launch of an innovative water treatment works upgrade at the beach resorts of Kenton and Bushmans River Mouth, as the holiday season reached its peak. Guest of honour Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Lindiwe Sisulu opened the upgraded facility.
A year ago Kenton and Bushmans River Mouth faced a bleak, dry festive season. Furious businesses, residents and holiday home owners demanded to know how water reserves serving Ndlambe’s Wards 3 and 4 had dropped to 8% on the eve of the popular beach resorts’ economically crucial high-tourism season. Residents and visitors alike endured severe water restrictions throughout the season.
*As the 2019 tourism season kicked in, the area enjoyed a supply boosted by 60%, or 1.4 megalitres a day, thanks to a speedy upgrade of the municipality’s reverse osmosis treatment plant. Unfortunately this still wasn’t enough to serve the needs of the area’s holiday population, which triples over the festive season. Residents complained of water outages shortly before Christmas that lasted into the new year.
*However, the capacity turnaround had been so quick and so remarkable that Sisulu made the trip to see it in operation and hear how the community had achieved it.
What she heard was how officials from Ndlambe Municipality, water services manager Amatola Water, the local business forum and the ratepayers’ associations and the Kenton Development Forum had joined forces to implement a plan that included maintenance, repairing leaks, along with the Amatola-funded upgrade of the treatment works.
Sisulu was full of praise for the initiative, which has increased the plant’s capacity for abstracting, storing and treating raw water from the Bushmans river for use by the 11 600 residents of Kenton, Ekumphumleni, Bushmans River Mouth, Riversbend, Marselle, Bushmans Extension, Klipfontein And Merryhill. During the holiday season, Sisululu had been informed, the area’s population triples.
Sisulu and Naidoo emphasised the importance of the plant’s success as a test case for other communities across South Africa.
“This process [desalination and reverse osmosis]will become an important sustainable water source for communities across South Africa – not only coastal communities but also inland developments whose water sources are brackish. This is extremely significant,” Naidoo said.
“What you have achieved here is a test of what is possible,” Sisulu said. Speaking about the severity of the drought, along with serious fires across the Eastern Cape, and this week’s floods in Tshwane, Sisulu said, “We can’t turn climate change around, but we can find strategies to deal with it. We must learn to cope with it.”
Amatola Water’s use of desalination and extraction was groundbreaking, Sisululu said, and was being trialled in other parts of the Eastern Cape.
* Article updated to note that despite the increase in capacity there were still water outages in the Ndlambe area during this past festive season.