Tag: water

Sandton Gautrain station still without water

By Kgomotso Modise for EWN

The City of Jo’burg said that the water supply would not be restored at the Gautrain station in Sandton until it received an R8-million payment from property company Cedar Park.

Water supply was cut off two weeks ago after the company apparently failed to pay municipal rates since 2013.

The matter was in the High Court on Friday and the property company has been given two weeks to make a payment.

Joburg Mayor Herman Mashaba said the city could not give Cedar Park preferential treatment.

“We’ve got our residents out there who are financially suppressed, we don’t know why the previous administration made such a deal with Cedar Park.”


Water shortage looms in SA

By Steve Kretzmann for GroundUp

A countrywide water shortage is a decade away unless urgent action is taken to rehabilitate and preserve our rivers and catchment areas, fix and maintain crumbling infrastructure and implement water re-use, reports GroundUp.

Without intervention, South Africa faces a deficit of about 3 000 billion litres of water per year by 2030, the Department of Water and Sanitation told a ministerial interactive session on transformation in Boksburg on February 15.

The new National Water and Sanitation Master Plan to ensure water security was presented by deputy director general Trevor Balzar. Along with coordinating budgeting, planning, and implementation across departments and spheres of governments, the Department of Water and Sanitation announced its intention to:

  • Set up a unit to assist municipalities with their water and sanitation;
  • Start a programme to use alternative water sources such as desalination and recycling; and
  • Form a team to fix the water infrastructure.

However, the department’s Green Drop Report, which was welcomed by scientists as a way to improve wastewater management, was not mentioned in the department’s press release, nor in the presentation of the master plan.

But the Green Drop Report, which was introduced in 2009 as an annual audit of the country’s 824 sewage works, has not been published in any form since 2013. How functional these wastewater treatment works are is an indicator of the health of our groundwater, rivers, vleis, estuaries and, where they release into the ocean, our coast.

Cape Flats Sewage flow, green drop report

The last Green Drop Report indicated that over four million litres of untreated or inadequately treated sewage was flowing into our rivers every day, according to Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation member Leonard Basson. He suspects the situation has got worse in the intervening years.

The 2013 report is only available as an executive summary that shows provincial, and not municipal performance. The last full Green Drop Report that drills down into the waste treatment plants managed by every municipality dates back to 2011.

It appears the five-year gap in information is due to a lack of capacity in a department that until recently was run by Nomvula Mokonyane, who was accused in testimony at the Zondo commission of receiving Bosasa largesse. But there is also a strong indication that withholding the Green Drop was a political decision by Cabinet.

Army mops up sewage crisis

In the 2013 Green Drop Report summary, just under half (49.6%) of treatment plants achieved a score of 50% or less, and almost a third (30.1%) were in a critical state. Some have since failed altogether.

Balzar’s presentation says that about 56% of municipal treatment plants are now in a poor or critical condition and need urgent rehabilitation, with some 11% completely dysfunctional. This, states the Department of Water and Sanitation, “is having a significantly detrimental impact on the environment and driving up the cost of water treatment”.

The dysfunction of treatment plants in the Emfuleni municipality, from which raw sewage has been flowing into the Vaal for years, according to Save the Vaal chairperson Malcolm Plant late last year, resulted in the South African National Defence Force deploying technical teams to help restore the crumbling infrastructure.

The polluted Vaal River is a popular recreation getaway for Johannesburg residents and a source of irrigation for agriculture. Fortunately, Emfuleni is downstream from the Vaal Dam, which supplies drinking water to Gauteng.

But according to the chair of the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation, Lulu Johnson (ANC), the Hartbeespoort Dam, which provides drinking water to Brits, has had raw sewage flowing into it due to breakdowns at the Madibeng municipal treatment works. The dam has been severely polluted for decades due to treatment plant failures in its catchment area, despite almost R1bn spent on trying to clean it up.

Meanwhile, infrastructure failures, combined with drought, have led to severe water shortages in Makhanda in the Eastern Cape, where taps run dry for days and residents have to line up to fill containers from water trucks.

All not necessarily well in the Western Cape

The Western Cape, although it achieved the top provincial Green Drop score (84.5% in 2013), had problems with its sewage plants. Some of them were in Cape Town.

The 2011 report revealed that the Cape Flats sewage works in Strandfontein scored only 20% for wastewater quality compliance eight years ago. Whether the Cape Flats sewage works has improved would be of interest to the many Capetonians who swim, fish and surf at Muizenberg and other close-by beaches. Water treated at this plant flows into False Bay.

Similarly, Cape Town’s Scottsdene plant scored 20% for wastewater quality compliance in 2011. Its treated wastewater runs into a series of dams used to irrigate Stellenbosch vegetable farms and vineyards.

One of the worst provincial performers was Cape Agulhas municipality with an overall score of 34%. The municipality’s sewage works at Struisbaai received zero for wastewater quality and its sewage works in Napier scored only 15%.

Oversight falls to civil society

Municipalities may assure residents all is now well, but the gap in information from a separate state body that has the mandate to do so means independent testing of inland and coastal water quality falls to civil society and academic researchers.

Senior Professor Leslie Petrik at the University of the Western Cape’s chemistry department has raised concerns over pollution on the Atlantic Seaboard where marine sewage outfalls are situated.

Dr Jo Barnes, a retired University of Stellenbosch epidemiologist, is looking at the state of the Kuils River and she doesn’t take the City’s statements that all is well at the Zandvliet wastewater plant for granted. But such oversight is ad hoc and has no legislative weight.

Political censorship

One reason for the failure of the Department of Water and Sanitation to produce Green Drop reports, which are currently the only way to keep track of the health of the country’s water bodies, might be because the information they contain is politically embarrassing. The DA-run Western Cape has consistently achieved the highest score, despite having its own pockets of failure, and Gauteng, which is also now in DA hands, came second.

Responding to questions from the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation in September last year, the Department of Water and Sanitation deputy director general of regulation, Anil Singh, said the 2013 Green Drop report had “huge policy implications”.

The transcript of the meeting recorded by the Parliamentary Monitoring Group records Singh as going on to say: “A decision had been made that the reports needed to be submitted to the Cabinet for consideration. The reports had been considered. That was why there had been a non-release of the reports.”

Singh is referring to the full 2013 reports, and there is mention in portfolio committee meetings of a 2016 Green Drop Report, which remains hidden.

Johnson did not want to be drawn on the clear political inference of Singh’s statement, but said there is “a serious issue of capacity in DWS (Department of Water and Sanitation)”.

The lack of capacity meant that not only was no water quality audit produced, but the department was not able to hold polluters accountable, whether they be state or private institutions.

Johnson said the department could not plan effectively when it did not know the quality of the country’s water, particularly given the status of South Africa’s rivers. In Parliament, he said it was “no wonder” there was a crisis at the Vaal River.

No response was forthcoming from the Department of Water and Sanitation at the time of publication.

Day Zero for Cape Town has been pushed back by four days to April 16, 2018, DA leader Mmusi Maimane announced in a statement on Tuesday.

“This is crucial progress, and I offer my thanks and congratulations to all residents who have joined in this campaign to Defeat Day Zero with such commitment. Their efforts have shown fruit. We have started to push back Day Zero, and we can defeat it altogether if we keep going.”

According to the latest data, dam levels for Cape Town are 26.3% as at January 29, 2018, from 26.6% at January 26, 2018.

The average daily water production of all water sources is at 580 ml/d compared to the target of 450ml/d.

Check out News24’s special report on the water crisis

“This is great progress, but to truly Defeat Day Zero, we need to aim to cut consumption to 450 million litres a day,” said Maimane.

If Day Zero does arrives taps will be cut off, except in the CBD and commercial and industrial zones.

“Pushing back Day Zero by 4 days may not seem like a lot. But actually it is a significant victory. It shows that residents are coming together and cutting water consumption,” said Maimane.

The DA leader also announced that the City secured an additional 67 million litres a day for a period of approximately 60 days, commencing in early February.

This is part of the 120 million litre augmentation which we announced last week.

“Last week we expected this additional capacity to only come online by May, but now more than half will be available from early February. This speeding-up of water augmentation will help us greatly to Defeat Day Zero.”

Meanwhile, retailers are cashing in as panic-stricken Capetonians are buying bottled water in bulk.

Have a look at this infographic prepared by Digest to help people decide what they need potable water for and to manage it within their budget.

Purchasing water at R23 (currently the higher end of what Capetonians are forking out in the city) could see residents up spending about R20 000 on water for the next three months, according to Digest estimates.

What will happen when Day Zero arrives?

  • One week before the six dams providing water to the Western Cape Water Supply System (WCWSS) are collectively expected to drop to 13.5%, the City will announce the date on which almost all the taps in Cape Town’s residential suburbs will be cut off.
  • Surrounding towns which are heavily reliant on these dams (such as Drakenstein, parts of Stellenbosch and towns on the West Coast) will likely also be turned off.
  • Municipal water may only be available at 200 Points of Distribution (PoDs) across the City.
  • The maximum allocation will be 25 litres per person per day, distributed on the assumption that an average family comprises four persons.
  • If every family sends one person to fetch their water allocation, about 5,000 people will congregate at each PoD every day.
  • Discussions are underway with SAB and the South African Bureau of Standards to sell water for R1 a quart (similar to a 750ml beer bottle)
  • The City’s Water and Sanitation Department will try to limi the impact on sanitation services to limit the risk of disease.
  • SAPS and the National Defence Force are being consulted to help maintain law and order with Law Enforcement at collection point.

Source: Cape Argus, CBN and News24 

World War Water

Former World Bank vice-president Ismail Serageldin famously predicted that “the wars of the 21st century will be fought over water”.

But now a plan has emerged to ensure that if violence erupts, it bypasses South Africa. It has been put together by the World Wide Fund for Nature and the Boston Consulting Group.

Among the steps suggested in the report are:

  • Water-use compliance and disclosure reporting requirements for JSE-listed companies;
  • Equipping communities with the skills to fix leaks;
  • Strictly enforced penalties for abuse of water; and
  • Incentives for the private sector to save water.

WWF’s senior manager for fresh water, Christine Colvin, said the worst drought for 20 years had taught some harsh lessons.

“Although the Cape is still in the grip of a deepening disaster, a greater danger may be that the floods in the rest of the country wash away the good resolutions to be better prepared and strengthen water governance,” she said.

South Africa would face a water deficit of 17% by 2030, the report said. By then demand for water was expected to have grown from 15-billion cubic metres to 18-billion cubic metres.

Delegates at the Future of Water workshop in January imagined four scenarios:

  1. Ample water across the country but excessive waste due to decaying infrastructure, and a depressed socioeconomic environment;
  2. Adequate water and a booming economy leading to growing demand;
  3. High economic growth but water scarcity due to drought and pollution; and
  4. Severe drought coupled with recession.

Four key goals emerged: becoming a water-conscious country; implementing strong water governance; managing water supply and demand; and becoming “water smart” by commercialising low-water technologies for industry and agriculture.

Drops in the bucket

  • Average annual rainfall is 490mm; the worldwide average is 814mm;
  • Agriculture uses 63% of water, households 26% and industry 11%;
  • 35% of household water is used in gardens, 29% to flush toilets and 13% on laundry;
  • R700-billion is needed to upgrade water infrastructure;
  • 46% of South Africans have a tap at home; and
  • 25% is lost to leaks in municipal systems.

By Dave Chambers for www.timeslive.co.za

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