Dam is full but taps are dry in Komani

Chris Hani District Municipality blames low revenue collection, ageing infrastructure, and loadshedding for water rationing

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Faniswa Sitwayi says her family in Komani wake up early to queue for water at the communal tap before sunrise. They do not have access to running water during the day. Photos: Mkhuseli Sizani

  • Komani (formerly Queenstown) residents are experiencing daily water outages though the dam closest to them appears to be full.
  • Most people have to wake up as early as 3am to collect water. They say the taps only run for about an hour each day.
  • The Chris Hani District Municipality, responsible for water and sanitation, blames low revenue collection, ageing infrastructure, and loadshedding for its water rationing.

Families in Komani (formerly Queenstown) are questioning why there are constant water outages in the town though the Bonkolo Dam is full. The Chris Hani District Municipality has blamed vandalism, decaying infrastructure, and loadshedding for water rationing.

The district municipality is responsible for water and sewage in the Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality.

Last month, parts of the town were shut down during protests. The protesters demanded that the “dysfunctional” Enoch Mgijima Municipality be dissolved.

Families GroundUp spoke to say they wake up as early as 3am to collect water which only runs for about an hour. Some of the water tanks have been dry for months, they say.

The district municipality says its water supply comes from the Bonkolo, Waterdown and Xonxa dams. This water then has to be treated and purified for human consumption.

According to Buli Ganyaza, spokesperson for Chris Hani District Municipality, the current demand in Komani is 60 megalitres per day whereas the plant’s operating capacity is 40 megalitres per day.

The Komani water treatment works has two plants, one built in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Ganyaza says an upgrade is necessary to increase capacity in line with a growing population.

But residents believe the municipality is not doing enough to ensure that they have running water.

Thulani Bukani of the Independent Komani Residents’ Association told GroundUp, “Water in the Enoch Mgijima Municipality is a crisis that gets worse everyday. For many years we have been told by the district that we are a drought-stricken area.

“But the Bonkolo Dam is full of water and we are still hit hard by water outages. When we asked the district why these water outages are continuing, it blamed loadshedding.”

Bukani said water tankers are not reliable. “We live about three to five days without water.”

Faniswa Sitwayi from T&R Section said her family of seven have to wake up early to queue for water at the communal tap before sunrise. “The water comes out at about 4am and by 5am the tap is dry again. I have to wake early because I need water for my children to wash and eat porridge before school.”

Her son Endinakho is in grade 11 and helps his mother collect water in the mornings. He said, “It is exhausting. Sometimes I cannot concentrate in class because I don’t sleep enough.”

The Bonkolo Dam is full. It is one of three dams that supply water to communities in Komani.

The district municipality’s Ganyaza told GroundUp that ageing infrastructure reduces operational capacity and causes pipe bursts. “This directly affects water losses. Water demand is higher than what is supplied to Komani. This can be attributed to population growth, an increase of new informal settlements, industrial businesses and communities.”

She said the current power outages result in more water cuts. “Water rationing has been ongoing since 2008. This was exacerbated by a prolonged drought which severely affected water supply in the district. Water rationing is still in place,” she said.

“Running costs for the service have drastically gone up. This has serious financial implications for the district municipality considering high fuel costs for backup generators which are now running longer than usual hours.

“The resources at our disposal for water carting are limited due to budgetary constraints and low revenue collection,” she said.

TOPICS:  Water

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