Due to the consistently low levels of dams in the Grahamstown area, the Makana Municipality is considering limiting water supplies in some parts of town.
Addressing a media conference on Thursday, Makana Municipal Manager Ntombi Baart said this “water-shedding” process will help the municipality to meet its demand for water supply.
She added that this process of regular water cuts would work in a similar fashion to the electricity load shedding which is occasionally carried out by Eskom.
Explaining how the municipality’s water operations sank to the level where they are “erratic” to the extent that the residents start questioning the water quality, Baart blamed the situation on earlier municipal reports which were never addressed.
She attributed the problem to a lack of expertise and explained that this is why the municipality wants to hire people to take charge of water distribution and monitoring water levels at the dams.
The municipality is adamant that all the recent water quality tests it undertook had been to satisfy the residents that the water in Grahamstown is safe to drink.
Following a report by the municipality’s chemical suppliers- which pointed fingers at municipal employees who were involved in acts of sabotage and lack of discipline Baart announced that the muncipality has hired a private investigator to conduct an internal investigation.
She added that the PI has until the end of the month to report on the findings which the municipal will then make public.
She added that the local water does not have Blue Drop status from the Department of Water Affairs. According to the department’s website, Blue Drop status has been awarded to only 22 cities in South Africa, including Port Elizabeth.
Blue or Green Drop status is awarded to a town if it complies with drinking water and waste water legislation and other best practice requirements.
The status will also provide the citizens with credible information on their drinking and waste water. In towns which have not yet been awarded Blue Drop, it should not be perceived that the water is unsafe for human consumption but rather that the manner in which drinking water quality is being managed still requires improvement.
Municipal spokesperson Thandy Matebese said: “The quality of the water is improving every day.” To allay residents’ fears that the water is contaminated, he added that they resolved that municipal officials should make a point of drinking tap water during all public ceremonies as opposed to drinking bottled water.
He also said water quality tests are conducted by Amatola Water Board, which is the only water testing body registered with department of Water Affairs.
“The municipality has also contracted the Nelson Mandela Metro Municipality to conduct tests on its water every month, in line with the requirements of the water affairs department,” asserted Mongezi Mabece, assistant director for water and sewer services.
Broken water pumps are often blamed for water outages in the townships because a single water pump cannot supply the whole Grahamstown area with water.
Technical and Infrastructural Services director Dabula Njilo said they are planning to install four water pumps at the James Kleynhans Plant. “Currently there are two water pumps in the plant, the other two will be on standby for emergency,” he explained. “We are also looking at regular maintenance of the pumps.”
Development Bank of Southern Africa employee Mlungisi Gila said they have already conducted a preliminary investigation on water operations in Makana and have compiled a report with recommendations which they submitted to Baart. He added that they were now waiting for feedback from her and then take it from there.