Warrenton water crisis returns

Note to Editors: Please find attached soundbites in English & Afrikaans from Willem Potgieter, Cllr. See pics here, here and here.

Extra demand for water amidst soaring temperatures and a scheduled “dry-week”, aggravated by cable theft and cash flow constraints, has left a large number of residents of Magareng municipality without water for over a week.

Magareng municipality has been aware of the dry-week, scheduled months in advance by the Department of Water and Sanitation to stop the pumping of water through the canal to Vaalharts Irrigation Scheme, to allow for work on the canal. This left affected residents totally dependent on pumped water from the Vaal River.

The municipality, however, failed to ensure that the pumps, used to extract water from the Vaal River were put back in commission in time for the dry-week. This led to the municipality scrambling to hire a sub-contractor to pump river water to the water purification plant, using portable pumps.

Oversight conducted by the Democratic Alliance (DA) yesterday, however, revealed that the sub-contractor cannot proceed to activate the portable pumps because the municipality has failed to fit the pump cables to the transformer. The municipality, meanwhile, is reportedly too busy replacing an overhead cable that was stolen, but an onsite inspection revealed that no work is being done to the overhead cable. The DA strongly suspects that this is because the cash-strapped municipality, which has been struggling to make salary payments, doesn’t have the funds to do so. On several occasions, cables have been procured by residents themselves.

The Warrenton water situation is a developing disaster and if not urgently addressed could turn into another full-blown crisis, as was experienced by residents of Magareng earlier this year. Residents were previously left without water for almost six months because of delayed repairs to the damaged, underwater pipeline caused by the severe flooding.

The DA has held numerous talks with the municipal manager. Yesterday, he again committed to prioritize the restoration of water and to further pursue our recommendation to request a week-long loadshedding exemption from Eskom, to allow the remaining operational pumps to work uninterrupted to replenish dam levels. Feedback is expected to be provided at a portfolio committee meeting today.

The DA previously lodged a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) with regards to water challenges in Warrenton. The case is ongoing and I will update them with these latest violations of the basic right to access to water.

The DA also strongly condemns the ongoing scourge of cable theft and calls on the community to help protect critical infrastructure, by reporting information in relation to copper theft to the police. We also call on the police to establish a specialized metal theft unit in the province to tackle this costly and debilitating crime.

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