Water Shortage Spin-Doctoring – Accountability please.

The following letter was submitted by Patrick Ronan, a resident in Shakas Rock, KZN, in frustration as he disagrees with the reasons given for water shortages.

I have been noting with increasing incredulity the thinly veiled acts of prevarication emanating from various local & provincial government officials as the water shortage in the Ballito area reaches crisis proportions.

Do they really believe our entire community are so gullible that they have been duped by the said officials purile attempts to blame this whole catastrophe crisis on the “great drought”?

The said government authorities and, in particular, their officials historically responsible for water planning/budgeting decision making and National water legislation enforcement are primarily responsible for the farcical position we all find ourselves in.

I say farcical because where in the world would you have a situation of daily water cuts, dry drinking water taps, no early morning showers/baths and dying gardens, in residential areas in circumstances where adjoining residential suburbs – literally across the street – and serviced by a far larger  municipality,  have an abundance of water to fulfil these basic socio-economic community needs?

Clearly analogies can be drawn with our current serious national power supply challenges. Unfortunately it now appears these types of public utility delivery management challenges are pervasive in certain parts of our society and are causing irreparable harm to our local and national economy.

We have heard it all – including the so-called “green” drought. And no – brushing your teeth with bottled water is not going to prevent the very real possibility of our taps going permanently dry within the next few months. All this “spin-doctoring” is wearing pretty thin.

Neither will the emergency laying of a water pipeline between the u’Tongathi River and the Hazelmere Dam (scheduled for commissioning in April 2015) – which at best will supply an average of 12 million litres of water per day to the dam – save the day. At best it will postpone the inevitable. According to recent Umgeni Water press releases, the historical treated water demand of Hazelmere dam ranges between 45 million – 50 million litres/day.

Whilst certain areas of Northern KZN have been affected by drought conditions – the same cannot be said of the primary Hazelmere Dam catchment areas. Whilst the said areas have recently experienced below average rainfall – it cannot accurately or fairly stated that those areas are experiencing a “severe drout” as scientifically defined.

Quite the contrary – these are the real reasons why we find ourselves in this invidious position where the Hazelmere Dam – 100% full just over 12 months ago – is now almost empty of potable water:

  • No proper risk, contingency and operational planning in respect of an identified risk (increasing regional water demand) which – with reference to reports on the internet – goes back more than 10 years;
  • Failure by National, Provincial and Local water authorities to allocate budgets for the proposed raising of the wall of the Hazelmere Dam (gazetted more than 5 years ago);
  • Lack of maintenance of the Hazelmere Dam (including reported structural integrity challenges) and its supporting infrastructure;
  • Failure to plan, budget for and commission alternative water supplies as a contingency measure to counter burgeoning urban development and the very real possibility (in an arid country) of periodic below average rainfall in a dam catchment area;Failure by the responsible authorities to prevent/regulate prevention of wasteful water irrigation methods by sugar and vegetable farmers involving the daily use of millions of litres of water;
  • Failure by the responsible authorities to implement water management upstream from the Hazelmere Dam in order to prevent the interference with natural water courses serving the Hazelmere Dam
  • Failure to prevent the large scale soil erosion occasioned by the well documented commercial exploitation of river sand; over-grazing and other poor farming methods employed by farmers in the Hazelmere Dam catchment area;
  • The resultant 20% silting-up of the Hazelmere Dam
  • Failure by the relevant authorities to enforce national water legislation enacted to regulate and criminalize interference with water courses, un-restricted pumping of river water and wasteful use of river water from rivers servicing urban water supply dams.

What really sticks in the craw is the fact that these utility delivery challenges were avoidable. Quite frankly – as a country and a people – we are better than this.

With reference to the litany of mis-management and lack of service delivery highlighted above – perhaps Angus Buchan’s recent public prayer meeting could possibly have also focused on the united call for some form of meaningful divine intervention as far as the sourcing and deployment of skilled, competent, experienced and delivery orientated executives required to properly administer and manage our local fresh water resources. That would truly constitute a miracle.

The current incumbents have failed us miserably – and should resign or be removed from office.

Quo Vadis?

Patrick Ronan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *