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Briefing on the current water challenges in the Emalahleni municipal area.

In Emalahleni we are well aware of the challenges of regular pipe bursts and shortage of supply as a result of old and insufficient infrastructure, as well as the sensitivity thereof to any electricity interruption. However, not since 2013 have we faced as severe challenge as at present. The past few weeks we have been faced with an increase problem of supplying water consistently to large parts in both the Eastern and Western areas.

During this period various factors resulted in our availability of purified water been reduced with close to 50% and in addition, the resulting shortages specifically been most severely manifesting itself in some areas. Not all areas of the community has been experiencing the problems equally.

The main problem impacting on availability of water started two weeks ago when the main bulk pumping line from the dam to the purification plant had to be closed down to replace a leaking section. This shutdown was only 14 hours but in that time given our high demand the plant ran dry as well as many reservoirs. This is not uncommon and normally the system should have recovered fully within 48 hours. However, since that point the plant could not recover to more than 50% of its normal output. The filter beds and filters displayed both chemical and mechanical problems and according to the specialist called in to assist in correcting the situation it was as a result of the continuous running of the plant at full capacity causing strain, the specific water quality received from the dam (especially heavy metal content) which made the system fragile. The water shutdown most likely provided a shock to this fragile system which proven to be much more severe than could have been anticipated.

This resulted in lower output of water into our pipe network and the areas immediately effected by this are Klarinet, KwaGuqa, and all areas served from the reservoirs known as Point A. There is simply not sufficient water reaching this reservoir to consistently provide that area with water and as a result outages for prolonged periods have been common over the past period. 

This lower supply also impacts on available supply to be pumped to areas served from Point C (situated next to N14 in Reyno Ridge) (Benfleur, Bakenveld, Duvha Park, parts of Reyno Ridge, Witbank X16). However, to add to this problem, for the past three weeks various mechanical and electrical defects at Point C manifested in further outages as pumping from B to C and between the low and high reservoirs at Point C was affected. 

Thirdly, the inconsistent supply also is contributing to an abnormally high number of major pipe bursts.  The community in the eastern suburbs especially would have experienced regular, dily pipe bursts further resulting in the inability of water to be distributed as repair time on a pipe bursts is typically 6 hours.

And, finally, to worsen matters, our water supply is supplemented with 16 ML ad day, (15% of our daily consumption) from a reclamation plant at Greenside. Supply from that source has been inconsistent and on average not more than 6ML a day, with a number of days zero, were received, further contributing to the shortage.

 The result is regular and in some cases prolonged water interruptions and we understand and share the frustrations from the affected public. To normalize the process the following steps are in place:

  1. A repair plan with short and medium term actions have been developed to rehabilitate the main water purification plant. These include amongst others the fixing of the filter cloth, valves, air blowers, dozing and bridges and amending the chemical dosages and operating arrangements, and in the medium term replacing the filter beds wherein we have to fix the sand and stone and nozels which are not locally manufactured and could take us two to three weeks to get them. A revised staffing and operational plan is also been implemented and at this stage the plant has stabilized and output is starting to improve. By the 20th we are hopeful to be up to 90% of production again.
  2. Secondly, mechanical and electrical work at Point C is continuing and by the end of this week we hope to have finished most of the work required. At this point, barring interruptions as a result of power interruptions, the pumping is working but require manual control, impacting on its reliability.
  3. Water tankers are also made available in all affected areas where there is no water. Residents are advised to consult with their Ward Councilors or to call the Call center, to verify these tankers routes and times. However, please note that nobody may be demanding money from residents for this water unless the water is required for business purposes. In general we also do not fill jojo tanks from this system as this delays distribution to others in need.
  4. A permanent water point art the Mechanical Workshop (Close to the Witbank Police Station) is available for anyone who can collect water. Please note that this service is also for free but is not available to people who want to tap water in bulk for on celling.
  5. One positive is that we managed to fast track the commissioning of the expanded package plant from 5ML a day to 10ML at present, with this plant set to reach 20ML per day during July.

The estimated time frame for the total situation to normalize may be up to the end of August.  We gradually are improving the volume of water been supplied and by end June all areas should have supply, with most areas from the 18th onwards already seeing improvements.

The municipality would also want to encourage people to use water sparingly and report all water cases at our Call Center-the number is 013 690 6222/6333/6444.

For more information contact Lebohang Mofokeng at 079 515 5833.

END.