Makhanda in denial over water crisis

Residents refuse to make necessary sacrifices as day of reckoning looms

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The academic city of Makhanda is teetering on the edge. The full extent of its water management disaster is finally being revealed by the Amatola Water utility board.
With the city’s western water supply projected to have dried up by month’s end, residents have refused to cut their daily usage to 50 litres per person and are consuming 200 litres per person on average, Makana municipality said in a statement on Tuesday.
The utility was given three months to pull the city back, but this week said that was not enough time.
To add to the crisis, the municipality this week warned that dams providing water for the western half of Makhanda were likely to run dry by the end of the month.
Residents in the eastern half of the city have complained for months about the brown, smelly water coming out of the taps on the few days of the week when there was water. They have repeatedly complained of skin rashes and dire stomach upsets.
Makana, broke and inefficient, received help from the provincial government which then sent in Amatola Water.
Amatola spokesperson Nosisa Sogayise said they had walked into a disaster.
The quality of drinking water was poor, Makana’s water testing laboratory equipment was “totally dysfunctional” and there was no monitoring and proper supervision.
Some issues had posed a serious risk to human health.
Sogayise said water coming from Makana’s water treatment plants, James Kleynhans, Waainek, Riebeeck East and Alicedale, did not meet the required quality standards.
She said drastic improvements were made but they did not have enough time to fix the system and there was no more money.
She said the utility had made progress and a report had been sent to water and sanitation minister Gugile Nkwinti.
Water from the systems still did not meet quality standards, but was now safe to consume as it was being treated and should not cause illness, she said.
James Kleynhans water treatment plant, which supplies the poorer eastern side of Makhanda, had been at only 50% capacity. Critical processing units had failed and were in a bad condition. The system had almost collapsed and water quality was very low.
There was not enough treatment chemicals because Makana was not paying its suppliers. Pipes and the chlorinator dosing system was broken and had to be repaired.
“Full dosage is now achievable and all the health risks are minimised, while all the critical laboratory equipment has been brought to full functionality by purchasing the missing parts and components,” she said.
Sogayise said the water quality “is now averaging on 90% compliance to SANS 241 standard and improving daily”.
Waainek water treatment works, which supply the western part of town, was running on ageing and dysfunctional equipment; there was poor monitoring of water quality, no supervision, faulty and dysfunctional laboratory equipment and no laboratory consumables.This situation had also been improved.But, the crisis continues. Makana municipality this week revealed that by the end of April the Waainek Water Works would no longer be able to supply residents if the drought continued.The James Kleynhans Water Works, working at full capacity, could assist with supplying reservoirs in the western part of the city, but it could only treat and produce 10 mega-litres per day, whilst water usage in Makhanda was at 18ML.“Water rationing will commence. JoJo tanks will be put up in strategic areas and these tanks will be filled by water from the boreholes already drilled.”Residents would be able to get water from the JoJo tanks on the days that their area does not have water.Makhanda activists Ron Weissenberg and Ayanda Kota expressed alarm at the sustainability of the Amatola Water intervention.While Weissenberg welcomed Amatola Water’s transparency, he said it was not a sustainable intervention.“It has six or seven weeks left on its contractual appointment and then what? My concerns are not for the short term. It is for the sustainability beyond the elections.”Kota said the situation reflected a microcosm of a dysfunctional municipality with a clueless leadership. “They are in denial. They don’t acknowledge the extent of the problem.”..

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