Water cost doubled

JON HOUZET

THE price tag of the proposed Ndlambe Bulk Water Supply project has doubled in price to R869-million in less than a year, and the municipality is uncertain where sufficient funding will come from.

Now feasibility of the project, which is intended to provide high-quality drinking water through Ndlambe, has been called into question by the opposition in council, which slammed Amatola Water’s latest progress report as “a pathetic document”.

Ndlambe municipality opted to go with Amatola Water after a prior plan to source water from the Gariep Dam through the Albany Regional Water Supply Scheme proved too costly and it was unlikely the municipality would be granted a licence to abstract water from Gariep.

The feasibility study has been completed and Amatola Water said the best option was to integrate and optimise existing water resources and infrastructure with additional water resources.

The project would source water from the Fish River to Ndlambe East via an inland route augmented by groundwater in Port Alfred. Centralised desalination through brackish water reverse osmosis (BWRO) would provide water to Ndlambe West.

However, in its progress report of May 21, Amatola Water said cost estimates for the project had almost doubled from its “desktop” study in April last year – which put the price at R464-million – and the feasibility study completed in February.

Amatola water said the reason for the sharp increase in cost was “unforeseen anomalies” relating to infrastructural challenges. The revised price tag also provides for the treatment of 20ML/day of potable Class 1 water whereas the original figure related to the supply of only 12ML/day.

The department of water affairs (DWA) is expected to fund R521,4-million through regional bulk infrastructure grants (RBIG), but Ndlambe has to source the remaining R347,6-million. Amatola admitted “securing co-funding for the project is a major challenge”.

Adding to the challenge, even DWA’s RBIG allocations over the next three years are “not in alignment” with required funding.

DA caucus leader Ross Purdon raised concerns over the progress report in Ndlambe’s executive committee meeting last week.

This week he told TotT: “We are seriously questioning Amatola’s capacity to actually do the job and the progress report is a pathetic document. It is also deeply disturbing to read of their performances elsewhere.”

He said the DA was giving the matter urgent attention.

“We have to protect our ratepayers against uncontrolled tariff increases.”

TotT asked municipal spokesman Cecil Mbolekwa to comment on the soaring cost of the project, the likelihood of sourcing co-funding, and the cost that would be passed on to consumers.

On Wednesday Mbolekwa replied: “There is a technical team which is currently working on the whole report for the municipality to consider. Once that report has been submitted to council for consideration we will then be able to comment on the issues raised by yourselves.

“That document was not part of the agenda to exco. A full report will be submitted to council, then the public will be afforded the opportunity to comment.”

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