Local government committee member Dacre Haddon last week told the members of the Bhisho Legislature that the catastrophic water crises in the Eastern Cape could have been avoided
The drought in this province has been with us for over two years yet little or no planning from the Department of Local Government has been forthcoming,” he said.
He said that on-going lack of maintenance and replacement of infrastructure has been a major cause of the water crises in the province.
Only two municipalities have qualified Water Engineers – namely Amatole and the Nelson Mandela Metro.
“I was informed by the MEC that 16 Water Service Authorities had Water Service Plans but the remainder of municipalities in this province made plans in conjunction with their IDP’s merely as compliance tools and not planning tools.
“After a two year drought when our water situation is dire the Metro proudly announces it started interventions to save water in March 2010! The Metro council only gave approval for the declaration of the Metro as a disaster area on 25 March. This was gazetted on 23 April 2010.
“So what are some of the crises “interventions” by the Metro:
“The most significant is the proposed installation of a Desalination plant at the Swartkops River. The Swartkops River is a heavily polluted industrial river.
“Other interventions include water education, accessing ground water, accessing low water storage in Impofu dam,” he said.
“What should have been happening since the drought occurred is the following:
If these measures had been put in place earlier the suffering of citizens and job losses could have been minimised:
a) Prevention of water leaks by on-going infrastructure maintenance;
Speaker the house needs to be aware that Umtata looses 70% of its drinkable water through leaks.
The Metro looses 37% of its drinkable water through leaks
b) Recycle of industrial effluent must be undertaken.
c) Innovative systems like dual flush toilets and water storage tanks be mandatory in all building construction plans.
d) Promulgating and enforcement of water conservation by laws-the Metro did not have water conservation by laws until very recently
He said that solutions and positive way forward to maintain a sustainable and healthy water situation in this province were:
1) The MEC must be aware as to his legal obligations with water management.
2) As a legislature we must now be proactive and ask for Petitions from communities so we can on an ongoing basis budget correctly and immediately attend to water problems – especially infrastructure maintenance.
3) As promulgated in the National Water Act Preamble to chapter 8 we should encourage greater public involvement in Water User Associations and have these as mandatory bodies in all municipalities.
4) All municipalities should have the minimum required amount of qualified Water Engineers.
5) All Municipalities should have short, medium and long term strategic Water Service Development Plans as proper and on-going planning tools.
6) These plans should be regularly communicated to communities through Water User Associations.