By PHILIP MACHANICK, Makana Citizens Front PR councillor
On 25 January 2022, the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation conducted an oversight visit to the James Kleynhans project. After being elected, MCF has been trying to organise oversight visits to water plants as one of our first priorities.
We have made no progress with getting access to sites. So, we were surprised that we only heard about this visit through the media and were not invited. We sent the following letter on 10 February to the chair of the committee, Robert Mashego, and he also seemed surprised that we were omitted.
We have two significant concerns, prompting this letter.
The first is a consistent pattern of throwing money at James Kleynhans (water sourced from a national scheme) whenever there is a drought, causing a shortage of locally-sourced water processed by the Waainek plant.
When the drought breaks, the James Kleynhans project is allowed to fail quietly. In 2019, this approach finally caught up with the government as the drought didn’t break, leaving us almost entirely dependant on James Kleynhans, except for brief respites when Howieson’s Poort, a much smaller dam that Settlers, fills up. Our concern is that the current James Kleynhans project, slated to finish in May 2022, will fail, and we demand reassurance that this will not happen.
Our other concern is that leaks are out of control. While an old grid can be expected to have significant leaks, the scale on which they are happening is far worse than usual.
That leads us to concerns such as: is water being turned off and on correctly, with on and off days, or when a leak is repaired? When water is turned on too fast, there can be a pressure surge. What is less obvious is that turning the water off too fast can also cause problems, and a vacuum can form.
This vacuum can collapse pipes and valves, but also a sudden release of the vacuum can cause hydraulic shock, also called water hammer. You experience water hammers on a small scale in a household when a vapour lock causes a judder in your pipes. On the scale of a water grid, a water hammer can cause significant pipe bursts.
Rather than getting better, the situation keeps getting worse. Outside intervention is called for to get things back on track.