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Dams, pipelines open the floodgates to water access

Written by Stephen Timm

Infrastructure Development

Government is stepping up efforts to improve access to water and sanitation in poor regions with the roll out of a number of water pipelines and dams in several provinces.

In September last year, Cabinet agreed to include a new Strategic Integrated Project (SIP) on water and sanitation, one of 18 strategic projects as part of government’s infrastructure plan.

Minister of Environmental and Water Affairs Edna Molewa revealed in May 2012 that her department was involved with a number of projects that would benefit about 550 000 people. Already, the first phase of the Nooitgedagt Scheme – which will provide water from the Gariep Dam through the Orange-Fish-Sundays transfer scheme – is nearly complete.

A pipeline from Olifantskop reservoir site is expected to be completed by March 2013. A reservoir at the site and booster pump stations at Motherwell and Stanford Road are expected to be completed by April 2013.

The department, which received R450 million in drought relief funds from National Treasury to be used for this phase, said the completion date for the pump stations had been delayed due to long delivery and testing periods for pumping equipment.

The design and tender documentation for four more contracts, including one to construct a pump station and reservoir, have also been drafted. Depending on funding, the earliest availability of water will only be in the fi quarter of 2015.

New pipeline

Meanwhile, the first stage of the R2.1 billion Mokolo and Crocodile River (West) Water Augmentation in the Lephalale region was expected to come online by the end of 2012, when a new pipeline will be linked with the existing old one to increase carrying capacity by 37 per cent. The project has been under construction since September 2011 and the delivery of water is expected to take place this year.

This will be followed by the refurbishment of the existing old pipeline by November 2014, with the entire project to be completed by September 2015.

The project will comprise new pipelines and the incorporation, refurbishment and integration of existing infrastructure owned by Eskom and mining company Exxaro.

The second part of the project involves a transfer scheme from the Crocodile River West, near Thabazimbi to the Lephalale area to further increase water supplies to meet the needs for future additional power generation in the area, as well as associated coal mines and urban development.

Construction on this project has not yet started. The provisional cost for the second part of the project is over R10 billion.

Other projects in progress:
  • The Mooi-Mgeni Transfer Scheme, which includes the construction of the over 37m high Spring Grove Dam, a pumping station and pipeline from the dam to the Mgeni River catchment, with the first delivery of water scheduled for April 2013.
  • The implementation of Phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands Water project to benefit Gauteng will go ahead after the agreement on the second phase has been ratified by South Africa. The first delivery of water is expected in 2020.
  • The raising of Tzaneen Dam and construction of the Nwamitwa Dam, both on the Groot Letaba River. A notice will shortly be published in the Government Gazette announcing Minister Molewa’s intention to raise the walls and construct the new dam. The dam walls of the Hazelmere Dam and Clanwilliam Dam will also be raised.

Also underway is the R38.5 million refurbishment of eight sewage treatment plants and three water treatment plants in the Free State under the Accelerated Community Infrastructure Programme, which will benefit eight municipalities.

The department is also planning to roll out hydro-electrical power schemes projects in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. The projects are an initiative of the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission.

Significant progress has been made in the provision of sanitation and access to clean water since 1996.

More people getting water

The results of Census 2011, released in October last year, revealed that the number of households with access to piped water inside their dwelling or yard has risen from 61 per cent in 1996 to 73 per cent by 2011. However, almost 1.3 million households in South Africa still don’t have access to piped water, with the highest proportion of these in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.

The Census also revealed that 57 per cent of households have access to flush toilets, connected to the sewerage system – up from 52 per cent in 2001. A number of rural areas and informal settlements are still without water because of poor maintenance or operational problems at municipalities.

Minister Molewa said in August last year that about 27 per cent of rural water schemes are not operating optimally and that 24 municipalities have been targeted to improve service delivery, including the delivery of water services.

She later added that her department had provided technical assistance to four Free State towns - Senekal, Marquard, Clocolan and Ficksburg - to resolve their water crises.

To attract the right kind of skills in the water sector, the department has set up a learning academy while providing about 100 bursaries to students.

In October 2012 the department also launched the Rand Water Academy, which will officially open its doors to 130 young graduates in engineering and other fields associated with water delivery.

Water quality

The department’s 4th Blue Drop report re- leased in April 2012 shows that government is continuing to improve on drinking water quality management – with 98 municipalities last year awarded Blue Drop Status, up from 66 in 2011.

Blue Drop certification goes beyond the quality of drinking water to include aspects such as risk management, operations and asset management of water services.

Therefore it does not mean that those municipalities not awarded Blue Drop status have water that is not safe for human consumption. In August the department released its second draft of the National Water Resource Strategy which sets out the strategic direction for water resources management for the period 2013-2017.

Molewa said at the launch of the draft that South Africa continues to experience significant water quality challenges with increasing urbanisation, mining, industries and agriculture having an impact on clean water. She added that 60 per cent of the country’s 223 river ecosystems are under threat and 25 per cent are critically endangered.

The department is developing a National Water Investment Framework and Strategy to assist government roll out new water infrastructure.