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Some Free State dam levels remain low

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Staff Reporter

Despite a marked improvement in water storage capacity across the Free State, water authorities have warned that the availability of the precious resource in some parts of the province remains a problem.

The provincial office of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) says while there is generally adequate water in the province, some of the major dams remain below 50 percent capacity.

Vernon Blair from the DWS told journalists during a tour of the Krugersdrift Dam, west of Bloemfontein, that water levels in most dams should be adequate to take the province to the next rainy season, but there is still need to conserve the water.

“Our rainy season starts around October and our current water levels seem quite good,” said Blair.

“Free State dams presently average 76.2 percent . . . and it remains important to conserve water,” he added.

In 2016, the province experienced a critical water shortage with dams averaging 54.8 percent while others completely dried up.

The latest dam report indicates that Krugersdrift dam is presently at 89.2 percent while Kalkfontein Dam is sitting at 58.7 percent.

Sterkfontein is at 94 percent; Gariep Dam 79.6 percent; Groothoek Dam 62 percent; and Knellpoort Dam in the Bloemfontein system is 58.7 percent full.

Rustfontein Dam however sits at only 29.5 percent and Fika Patso Dam in Maluti-a-Phofung has declined to 33.8 percent.

DWS provincial head Tseliso Ntili said in an earlier statement that the fact that most of the Free State water storage system is in a better state as compared to previous years should not breed complacency.

He said water conservation and demand management initiatives must remain in place.

“. . . water users are urged to continue with water-saving initiatives,” said Ntili.

He pointed out that as a result of the country moving to Level 1 of the national lockdown, there is an anticipated increase in water use as economic activities resume.

At the peak of the national lockdown implemented by the government to curb the spread of the COVID-19, a total of 520 water tanks were delivered and installed across the province to ensure communities — particularly those in heavily populated informal areas — practised good hygiene by washing hands regularly.

Ntili also warned communities that climate change made it impossible to predict the rainy seasons and emphasised the importance of cutting down on high water use.

“As climate change is becoming a new normal, a business-as-usual approach can no longer be a solution . . . we relentlessly remind all water users to cut down water demand in particular high-end users,” he said.

“We have to explore alternative water sources, leading to less reliance on surface water.”

KEEP SAVING WATER . . . Vernon Blair from the DWS says Free State water levels have improved in recent seasons but conservation remains important

 

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Parts of Free State may not have power for up to three weeks

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PROLONGED BLACKOUT LOOMS . . . Eskom says consumers in some parts of the Free State may not have electricity for up to three weeks

Eskom has warned consumers in the south-eastern Free State that they may not have electricity for up to three weeks due to voltage constraints on the network feeding the Melkspruit Substation.

The power failure resulted in electricity users in Zastron, Rouxville and Smithfield as well as those fed directly by Eskom on the RVZ and RVS 22 kV lines experiencing outages over the past weekend.

Eskom’s spokesperson in the Free State, Stefanie Jansen van Rensburg, said the problem may persist until major work on a line from the Northern Cape is completed.

“The voltage constraint on the network will persist until construction of structures on the Ruigtevallei-Valleydora 132 kV line in the Northern Cape is completed,” said Van Rensburg as she urged consumers to remain patient while the supply challenge is addressed.

“Free State teams are currently assisting to speed up the process. It is however expected that work will take two to three weeks to complete.”

“In the meantime, electricity users are urged to use electricity sparingly, especially during the morning and evening peak hours, to prevent trips,” she added.

South Africa has been experiencing rolling blackouts in recent weeks due to what Eskom has described a “continued shortage of generation capacity”.

On Sunday, the national power utility said in a separate statement it had about 3 028 megawatts on planned maintenance, while another 14 992 megawatts of capacity were unavailable due to breakdowns.

While the loadshedding is meant to ease pressure on the national grid and avoid a total collapse of the system, the practice has reportedly caused damage on some lines when power is switched back on.

Eskom has always said loadshedding is implemented only as a last resort to protect the national grid and promised to limit the implementation of loadshedding to the evening peak in order to limit the impact of the capacity shortages on the public. – Staff Reporter

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Minister shuts down troubled Free State water supplier

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MOVE GAZETTED . . . Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu has disestablished Sedibeng Water

Staff and key assets from the embattled Sedibeng Water Board are set to be transferred to the Bloemwater and Magalies water boards following the gazetting of the move by Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu last week.

The department’s spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau, said in a statement the development is in line with the minister’s commitment to review the country’s water boards to enable them to perform optimally while enhancing the delivery of water to municipalities and ultimately to households.

The decision to disestablish Sedibeng Water – which served Matjhabeng, Masilonyana and Nala local municipalities, among others – means its staff, assets and liabilities will be absorbed by Bloemwater in the Free State and Magalies in Gauteng.

The move, according to Ratau, was initiated by the minister following his working sessions with provincial governments, various water services authorities and water boards regarding issues of governance, financial viability as well as accountability and broader service delivery issues after taking office in August last year.

“The review is based on considerations of financial sustainability, servicing areas that are not currently serviced and is also intended to address institutional confusion caused by having multiple water boards serving the same area,” said Ratau.

“The disestablishment of Sedibeng Water is in accordance with section 28 of the Water Services Act of 1997 which affords Minister Mchunu the authority to disestablish a water board.

“The gazette was published on Friday, 20 May 2022 and will remain open to the public for a period of 40 days.

“Members of the public and all interested parties are invited to make comments in writing on the disestablishment of the board.”

The department said it will ensure there is smooth transition of the disestablishment and that water service provision to communities is not affected.

Based in Bothaville, Sedibeng Water was established to, among others, treat wastewater and supply potable water in a viabile and sustainable manner.

However, in recent years, some of the municipalities served by the water board have struggled over the years to pay on time for the bulk water supplies even though residents have argued that they pay their monthly bills on time.

At the end of March this year, Sedibeng reportedly owed its service providers over R5-billion as it was struggling to secure payment from several municipalities. – Staff Reporter

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Mangaung warns residents to brace for heavy rainfall

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DISRUPTIVE DOWNPOUR LOOMING . . . Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has warned heavy rainfall is expected to pound the capital

The Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has warned residents in and around the Free State capital to brace for heavy rainfall that could cause flooding this Friday.

The municipality is urging drivers to take extra caution by reducing speed and switching their headlights on, while pedestrians are being reminded to be careful when crossing the road and to avoid crossing rivers and streams where water is above the ankles.

“Residents of Mangaung Metro, particularly in the former Naledi region, are urged to be cautious on the road and in their homes as the South African Weather Service has issued an impact-based warning . . . for possible disruptive rainfall,” the metro said in a statement.

“This warning is valid for Friday, 20 May 2022 until Saturday, 21 May 2022.”

“Heavy rains are also predicted in Bloemfontein on Friday,” it added.

“Localised flooding can be expected in susceptible low-lying areas, roads, formal/informal settlements and bridges.” – Staff Reporter

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