By ZIMKITA LINYANA and LUCAS NOWICKI
Loadshedding and the damaged connection between the Howieson’s Poort Dam and the Waainek Water Treatment Works have throttled Makhanda’s water supply in recent weeks, prompting widespread stress and anger amongst residents.
Major repairs on the Howieson’s Poort rising main were completed on Wednesday morning, but technicians had to wait for the concrete for the thrust block to dry before testing and pumping.
It is hoped that Waainek will swing back into operation over the weekend.
Water flowed back into parts of the city on Thursday, 6 October, but some areas were left high and dry. Some communities have reportedly been without water for more than a week.
Makana Municipality warned residents to brace themselves for another two water-off days on Friday and Saturday.
Water carting will occur at more distressed areas of Extension 5, Ext 4, Ext 2, Upper Joza and the Army Base.
According to Makana Municipality Director of Engineering and Infrastructure, Asanda Gidana load shedding and the broken water line to Waainek were chiefly responsible for the radical cuts to the water supply.
Makana has resorted to water cuts to restore capacity and enable the repair and maintenance work of its infrastructure, Gidana said.
Many high-lying residents have complained about not receiving adequate water even during ‘on’ days.
Week-long water cuts in some areas
Nomawethu Ralo from Joza has three children. She has recently been employed by the Social Employment Fund to “revitalise” the town until March 2023, along with nearly 2,000 other young people from across Makhanda.
Ralo said she had not had water for over a week. She said last week, she asked her ward councillor to request a water truck, which he had promised to do, but nothing has happened. “I can’t do my children’s laundry or clean the house. The toilet is smelly,” she said. Ralo said she pays R1 per litre for drinking water.
Makana Municipality has said that the recent water cuts were due to a leak on the line connecting Howieson’s Poort Dam to the Waainek Water Treatment Works. The lack of repair material combined with load-shedding made it difficult to repair the leak, according to the Municipality.
Then on 26 September, another leak was found when the pressure did not pick up. Without the “necessary fittings” to fix it immediately, the town had to rely on James Kleynhans Treatment Works. Delays were compounded by load shedding.
Makana Residents Association (MRA) secretary Tim Bull said that the water cuts “go far beyond inconvenience for residents and business” as people have to spend thousands of rands on water tanks and pumps, with some residents and businesses choosing to leave the town.
Rhodes meets with Makana Municipality
The Rhodes University Infrastructure and Operations Division, the Director of Student Affairs, and Residential Operations representatives recently met with a delegation from Makana, including Gidana, to discuss the negative impact of the water crisis on the university.
The meeting revealed the following issues had had the most significant influence on the disruptions in the water supply to the town and Rhodes University campus:
- The closure of Waainek Water Treatment Works (supplying water from the west of the city);
- Plumbing maintenance challenges;
- Ongoing delays in upgrading James Kleynhans Water Treatment Works (providing water from the east).
The Rhodes Infrastructure and Operations Division said in a statement that it would try to maintain a good water supply by manually filling available tanks and reservoirs on campus to ensure the continued operations of the University.
“There are initiatives led by the city to procure electricity via the Wind Farm project and to fast-track the upgrade of James Kleynhans Water Treatment Works,” the statement said.
Furthermore, Gidana assured the university at the meeting that the water in Makhanda is tested regularly and is safe to consume.
According to a recently published Makana Municipality newsletter, Howieson’s Poort Dam is currently 45% full, with Settlers Dam at 30%. Above-average rainfall for the past two months has not significantly impacted dam levels on the eastern side of the city.
However, the long-range rainfall prediction for the next three months is positive.
Additional reporting by GroundUp.org.za