EDITOR’S NOTE: This letter was sent to the Makana Residents Association (MRA) members on Monday, 21 February.
The short answer has nothing to do with the Worcester Street pipe break – the reason is that Makana Municipality has failed to repair and reinstate pumps at Howieson’s Poort and James Kleynhans pumping stations. This letter is as brief as possible to explain where and why you are still experiencing water outages.
As you know, Makana has suffered an extremely severe drought. Last year we experienced endless water outages because the dams were dry, and all Makhanda relied on water being treated and pumped from James Kleynhans Water Treatment works (JKWTW).
Note: The outages through 2021 were avoidable if the JKWTW upgrade to double capacity had been completed on schedule in 2018, and here we are in 2022, still waiting. Until the upgrade is complete, JKWTW can only produce about 50% of the water we need in Makhanda.
Due to the topography, water supplies have to be pumped uphill to holding reservoirs. Then the water flows down to us by gravity. To supply west Makhanda, there is a ‘transfer pipe’ and a pump to push the water up to the high-level reservoir so that everyone living at higher levels can get water when the dams are empty. This transfer is only necessary when dam water is not available.
That was the situation until November 2021, when the drought broke, and the dams started to refill. Howieson Poort dam is now full, and Settlers dam is around 28%. There is no water shortage!
All the communications from Makana blaming the pipe break at Worcester Street and excessive turbidity of the water are excuses. It is such a struggle to provide water from Howieson’s Poort because two out of three pumps are missing. There should be two pumps working in rotation to prevent overloading, a spare in case of maintenance etc.
The situation is even more severe because JKWTW has bays for four pumps. Two pumps are missing, and only one pump is working properly; the other keeps tripping (possibly indicating overheating). JK should have three pumps working in rotation and one replacement ready in case of maintenance etc.
Yes. Short-term outages are due to other pipe breaks and where asbestos pipes are being replaced, but that is not the big picture, even though all outages are frustrating.
It cannot be overemphasised – if the one pump at Howieson Poort or the one good pump at JK fails, we will be in real trouble. It could take weeks to restore water in the event of such a failure. This time it could happen without flooding, purely because Makana has allowed this dangerous situation to arise.
* There is a further sub-story outlined below for people wanting a bit more information.
MRA has spoken with the Municipal Manager, and the response was non-committal, indeed no grasp of the implications if one of these pumps were to fail. For all our sakes, it is the duty of all of us to push Makana to take urgent action.
The Mayor: Yandiswa Vara : firstname.lastname@example.org
Head Infrastructure Portfolio: Gcobisa Mene: email@example.com
Municipal Manager: Moppo Mene : firstname.lastname@example.org
Director Infrastructure: Asanda Gidana: email@example.com
It is not the intention of MRA to cause unnecessary worry, but we must get Makana to resolve this situation. MRA will also be communicating at District, Provincial and National levels to press for urgent attention.
“We cannot rest until there are at least two fully functioning pumps at Howieson Poort and three fully functioning pumps at James Kleynhans.”MRA
With only one working pump at Howieson’s Poort, it is unlikely that Makana can pump the eight megaliters per day that west Makhanda needs. This is why we have such extensive outages, even though there is no shortage of dam water. If the one pump at Howieson Poort were pushed that hard, enough to supply the eight megaliters we need daily, the risk of the pump failing would increase substantially.
At the same time, the lack of pumping capacity at JKWTW means that the eastern side of Makhanda is also experiencing excessive and unnecessary water outages. At the last main media briefing under the previous Mayor, Muzikisi Mpahlwa, stated that the problems were behind us as there would be five pumps at JKWTW.
The Worcester Street pipe transfers water from JKWTW to the west when the dams are empty. The ‘humble apologies’ from Makana indicating that the Worcester Street break is causing water outages is a smoke-screen for the disastrous lack of pumping capacity. If Makana could transfer water, it would worsen the extensive outages in east Makhanda.
Makana has a monitoring system called SCADA which would tell us exactly how much is being pumped, when, and at what rate. When our current Water Manager Gubevu started at Makana about two years ago, he caused the SCADA terminals housed at MBB Consulting and at Rhodes University to be removed.
Because the information is confidential. Really? What could be more destructive than preventing water experts based in Makhanda from seeing what is happening? It was in all our interests to have independent experts monitoring performance and raising the alarm if there’s a problem. It appears that the only SCADA terminal plugged in is sitting on Mr Maduna’s desk.
MRA has also been told that, under Mr Maduna’s watch, far too much flocculent was used to treat our water when the municipality started pumping from Howieson Poort after the drought. Millions of litres of water had to be wasted, possibly three days’ worth of water (20+ million litres). This situation was wholly avoidable by allowing the water to settle in the Waainek lay dams and then knowing the correct amount of flocculent to use. All the time we were being told, first excessive turbidity, and secondly the Worcester Street pipe break were the reason for no water.
Due to all the ongoing concerns about water supply and water quality MRA have set up a Water Forum because we believe that our water supply is a critical area that needs public oversight. We will keep pushing until Makana allows members of the forum reasonable access to Makana’s water treatment, storage and pumping facilities. The Water Forum also needs access to water testing results and SCADA information.
[All references to pumps above means pump sets. Each pump set is composed of a pump and a motor. In most cases, it is the motor that has been removed for repair]