What a waste | 307 billion litres of water lost since 2010

Water flows through a tap left open. File picture
Water flows through a tap left open. File picture
Image: Pixabay.com

The amount of water lost since the last drought through ailing infrastructure and inaccurate billing would have filled up all of Nelson Mandela Bay’s supply dams.

This means the water crisis could have been averted as 307 billion litres have gone down the drain since 2010.

The water lost equates to about R894-million, using the average price of R12.68 a kilolitre in the last eight years.

The combined overall capacity of all five dams – Churchill, Impofu, Groendal, Kouga and Loerie – is roughly 285 billion litres of water.

If not for the alarming losses, the dams would be sitting at about 129%.

The current overall dam levels are 22.3%, according to the latest reading on Thursday.

Despite ailing infrastructure mainly to blame for the water losses, municipal water distribution director Joseph Tsatsire said the budget for repairs had remained at about R31-million for the last eight years.

Since 2010, the municipality has fixed 141 273 leaks, but this has not been enough.

“If we were able to fix all the leaks we wouldn’t even need to rely on bulk water schemes [such as the Nooitgedacht Low Level Water Scheme] at all,” he said.

“But it is not as easy as that.

“We have always said the easiest way to alleviate the water problem is to stop leaks – it is a no-brainer.

“If we’d had all the water lost through leaks we would have had enough to fill our dams.”

Tsatsire said losses fell in two categories – water lost through leaks and unauthorised consumption.

The most water was lost in the 2015-16 financial year – 47.7 million kilolitres, and 2013-14 with 45.5 million kilolitres.

So far this financial year, 31.7 million kilolitres of water has been lost, with two more months still to go.

Nelson Mandela University acting botany head Dr Phumelile Gama, who specialises in freshwater and estuarine microalgal ecology, said more resources needed to be pumped into repairs and maintenance.

“While I believe that, even if all the water leaks were fixed we still would require water restrictions to maintain water levels, we definitely would not be in the situation we find ourselves in,” Gama said.

“More resources need to be pumped into maintenance to solve the immediate water problem. At this rate, the municipality is taking one step forward and two steps back.”

Residents are outraged about the massive water losses over the past eight years. Several complained, when they heard about the losses, about the increased tariffs and the municipality “religiously” reminding residents to save water.

Visits to some of the areas known for water leaks found the most notable leak was in Van Rooyen Street, Uitenhage, where a strong stream of about 100m has been flowing for about two weeks, according to residents.

Uitenhage resident Nicole Booysen, 40, said the municipality should provide the public with repair figures to justify the increased tariffs.

We are religiously told about saving water but [it] also needs to attend to the problems.
Nicole Booysen

“We are religiously told about saving water but [it] also needs to attend to the problems,” she said.

Bethelsdorp resident Herman van Wyk, 56, said the municipality should implement a roaming maintenance team to attend to leaks.

“I’m sure they can spare a bakkie and two plumbers.”

Zwide resident Luvuyo Mzalo, 38, said: “Water leaks will go unattended for days, then the municipality will come check, go missing for a few days, then attend to the problem.”

Since taking over the municipality in August 2016, the DA has managed to bolster the maintenance team with 13 artisans, 14 meter maintenance workers and four supervisors.

Infrastructure and engineering mayoral committee member Masixole Zinto said the municipality was working on a long-term plan while chasing down leaks.

“Maintenance has not been taken care of as well as it should have been.

“However, we are urgently attending to [it] as maintenance is close to the mayor [Athol Trollip’s] heart. The municipality has 41 plumbers. “But our goal is to get 61. “We are also busy with zone meters and replacement of valves to attend to leaks quicker.”

The most repairs were in 2010-2011, with 26 501 leaks fixed but this dropped in the next two financial years.

ANC councillor Andile Mfunda, a former mayoral committee member for infrastructure and engineering when the ANC ran the municipality, called on the DA to adopt his party’s water-saving plan.

“We had good plans in place. We were the ones who produced Nooitgedacht and intended to fast-track [it], which the DA is failing to do.

“Also the 10-point plan was pivotal to rectifying this – employing five plumbers per ward,” Mfunda said.