Water challenges: hearings with municipalities

Water and Sanitation

17 June 2008
Chairperson: Ms C September (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Several Municipalities briefed the Committee on their water provision and challenges around the supply  of water in their areas. The Uthungulu District Municipality focused on the Water Service Development Plan, water quality issues, and the challenges encountered by the municipality regarding the supply of water. Challenges highlighted by this municipality included problems with accessing funding to replace ageing municipal infrastructure, lack of or poor ground water supplies and the historical nature of existing rural schemes in terms of water meters and service levels. The water was monitored by the Departments of Health and Water Affairs. The Municipality had a water quality awareness programme, conducted through road shows and school visits.

The Capricorn District Municipality noted that 71 % of the population had access to water, Although the Municipality did not have its own laboratories to test the quality of the water, the Department of Water Affairs had allowed the Municipality to make use of its resources. Most of the communities used ground water, and monitoring of supplies was more difficult. The vast area made it difficult to conduct sampling successfully, but the Municipality had put aside money to deal with this. There were awareness programmes in place. Questions by Members addressed how the Municipality provided quality water supplies in rural areas, the age of the pipes, and why those previously dealing with the matter failed to follow set protocols.

The OR Tambo District Municipality was challenged by numerous backlogs and ageing infrastructure, and a further challenge was that people tended to build without planning permission, which made regional planning difficult. The Municipality had developed master plans and was doing training. Members asked how the Municipality was dealing with provision of water, since only 35% of the population had access to clean water, and the plans to address water in rural areas. 

The Albert Luthuli Municipality reported that it had an outdated Water Service Delivery Policy that had to be revised. The functions of the Water Service Authority were to improve the efficiency of drinking water treatment plants, enhance the quality of water supply and efficiency of treatment procedures and protect public health. Little information was provided or available on ground water in the municipality. However, most boreholes were of drinking quality. Surface water was currently fit for use but there was concern over the decline in quality. Testing was done by a private service provider. There had been some construction of new water treatment facility and a conservation and demand management project.  There was a lack of scientific skills but training was being given. Members were concerned about the use of consultants and recommended regular checks to ensure accuracy of tests.

The Mopani District Municipality had high hopes for its farming and tourist growth. It consisted of five local municipalities. The main focus was on management of water plants, and retail distribution and end user points were not regularly being sampled. It was now focusing on rural communities. There had been some problems with water quotas. Fifteen water treatment plants were now operating. There had been identification of insufficient surface water, threats to water ground water protocol, inadequacy and a shortage of personnel to monitor water quality. There were partnerships with various role players and the Municipality had implemented an awareness campaign that focussed on health and hygiene, water pollution and safe usage of water. The Municipality was not yet compliant with the Departments’ reporting requirements. R5 million had been set aside for refurbishment.  The testing was set out. Members asked why everything was not already in place, queried why the long-standing problems had not yet been sorted out, whether there would be building of another dam. The debt owed by the Municipality to the Lephalele Water Board was queried and explained.

Meeting report

Water quality in Uthungulu District municipality 
Mr E Msomi, Head of Department: Technical, Uthungulu District Municipality, focused on the Water Service Development Plan (WSDP), water quality issues, and the challenges encountered by the municipality regarding the supply of water. Some of the challenges highlighted by the municipality included problems with accessing funding to replace ageing municipal infrastructure, lack of or poor ground water supplies and the historical nature of existing rural schemes in terms of water meters and service levels.

With regard to the Municipality’s relationship with other role players, Mr Msomi told the committee that the Uthungulu water quality programme was monitored by two external institutions, namely the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF).

He also announced that the municipality had a water quality awareness programme, which was conducted through road shows and schools being visited during National Water Week.

Water quality in  Capricorn District Municipality
Cllr Motalane Monakedi, Executive Mayor of Capricorn District Municipality, said that Capricorn was in Limpopo, and that 71 % of the population had access to water in the district that the municipality covered. He noted that the Municipality did not have its own laboratories to test the quality of the water. However DWAF assisted the Municipality by allowing the municipality to make use of its resources.

A further challenge was the fact that most of the communities in the district that the municipality used ground water, and thus the monitoring of water supplies was more difficult. In addition, the area that the municipality supplied was vast and thus it was very difficult to conduct sampling successfully.

To try to counter these challenges, the Mayor advised that the Municipality had put aside R12 million. Some of the challenges were historical. The Municipality also had an awareness program that created interaction between the municipality and the community.

Water Quality at OR Tambo District Municipality
Mr Zoleka Capa, Executive Mayor, OR Tambo District Municipality, noted that the Municipality was situated in the former Transkei, along the coast. It was challenged by numerous backlogs and ageing infrastructure. In some small towns, the infrastructure had exceeded its life span. One of the major problems, and an obstacle in the district, was the lack of regional planning, as it was found that at times people would build in places where they were not allowed. To try to combat this, the municipality had developed master plans, which also involved training people to take up posts in the municipality. The municipality had also put aside money to refurbish sewerage pipes.

Discussion
Mr M Sibuyana (ANC) asked how the Capricorn Municipality provided quality water supplies in rural areas.

A member of the Capricorn Municipality delegation said that it was difficult to monitor the quality of water in rural areas as most rural areas relied on borehole water, but that municipal strategies were being drawn to deal with the matter.

Another Member of the Committee asked how old were the water pipes in some small towns had.

A delegate for the Capricorn Municipality said that the age of the infrastructure exceeded 20 years in some urban and rural areas

The same Member then asked the OR Tambo Municipality how it was dealing with the issue of providing the population with water. It seemed that only 35% of the population in the area had access to clean water, and he had not seen any mention of the rural areas in the plans.

Cllr Capa, OR Tambo Municipality said that there was a plan in place to address the issue of water in rural areas, however there were many other issues that they had to deal with also. These included the relocation of amasimi, and thus there was a need for the Municipality to interact with the traditional authorities.

Ms S Manana (ANC) asked Capricorn to expand upon the remark that those previously looking after the water in the region did not follow protocol.

Mr M Ncuma, Water quality Manager, Capricorn District Municipality, said that the protocols had been developed by DWAF, but that this Department had failed to enforce them strictly due to capacity constraints.

Water Challenges in Albert Luthuli Municipality
Ms E S Dlamini, Executive Mayor, Albert Luthuli Municipality, briefed the Committee on whether the Albert Luthuli Municipality had the resources to perform Water Service Authority (WSA) functions.

Ms Dlamini said that the Albert Luthuli Municipality had an outdated Water Service Delivery Policy (WSPD) that had to be revised, and that the national Department of Water and Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) as well as the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) had been assisting the municipality in developing or updating its WSDP.

Ms Dlamini noted that the functions of the WSA were to improve the efficiency of drinking water treatment plants, enhance the quality of water supply and efficiency of treatment procedures and to protect public health. It was noted that very little information was provided or available on ground water in the municipality. However, the National Water Resource Strategy (NWRS) had indicated that ground water in the Inkomati Water Management Area (WMA) was within the ideal range for domestic usage at any location. The conclusion was that ground water was very good in the WMA, with most boreholes within the class of quality range which made the water ideal for drinking, food preparation, bathing and laundry.

In relation to surface water quality, it was concluded that although this water quality was fit for its intended purpose, there were some concerns on the decline in the quality and increase in the threat of potential pollution activity. In addition the concentration of nutrients in the rivers had been increasing steadily, with the electricity conductivity also increasing in all the rivers in the Inkomati WMA.

The Mayor indicated that water quality tests had been conducted by Mpumamanzi, a private service provider, and that the results were tabled before the Technical Portfolio Committee on a monthly basis.

In order to ensure proper water service delivery policy directive, the Albert Luthuli Municipality engaged with several institutional role-players, such as the national and provincial ministries responsible for Water Affairs, the Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) and other stakeholders. The municipality was currently involved in the implementation of several capital water services projects in partnership with different sector departments. The construction of a new water treatment facility in Mpuluzi with a budget of R3 million and a water conservation and demand management project with a budget of R3, 5 million were two of the significant projects currently being undertaken. 

Ms Dlamini noted that the Municipality had no scientific skills, with one technician responsible for water quality, one assistant director responsible for civil works and some plant operators who formed part of a very small technical department.

She related that the Municipality had challenges in meeting international requirements as well as ecological requirements, due to constraints, and that concerns had also been raised on the equal and fair distribution of water. The attempts to address these challenges included continuous training that would be given to plant operators, the upgrading and refurbishment of treatment plants, and communities being notified in time about the quality of water.

The Municipality had received recommendations to develop an appropriate model for the Water Services Authority, develop and update water services development plan for Albert Luthuli Municipality, and develop a credible laboratory for the municipality in order to conduct tests on a regular basis and make sufficient findings for drinking water quality management and control.

Discussion
Ms S Maine (ANC) said that she was very surprised to hear that the Albert Luthuli Municipality did not have problems with collapsing and outdated infrastructure,

Mr J Combrinck (ANC) said that he noted that the Municipality made use of consultants to perform water quality tests as they sometimes tended to be cheaper, but he expressed his concern with the measures the Municipality had been taking to ensure that the tests reflected accuracy.

Ms Dlamini replied that Albert Luthuli Hospital only had one technician who worked hand-in-hand with the service provider when water quality was tested.

Water Quality in Mopani District Municipality
Mr Ngoako Ramathoka, Technical Director, Mopani District Municipality briefed the Committee on his Municipality’s efforts to maintain and better water quality management in the Water Services Development Plans.

Mr Ramathoka said that the vision of the Mopani District Municipality was to be the food basket of Southern Africa and a tourism destination of choice. It had an overall population of 1 223 747 inhabitants. The Mopani region was located in the Limpopo province, bordered by Mozambique in the east and Zimbabwe in the north. Its key features were that it was home to the Big Five, the food basket of the country and the abundance of the nutritional mopani worms as well as being the home of the “Rain Queen”.

The Mopani District Municipality consisted of five local municipalities, namely; the Ba-Phalaborwa Municipality, Greater Giyani Municipality, Greater Letaba Municipality, Greater Tzaneen Municipality, the Maruleng Municipality and the District Management Area.

He indicated that the main focus of water quality management in the WSDP was on water plants, and that the retail distribution networks and end user points had not regularly been sampled, with some bulk water distribution networks being regularly sampled. The Mopani District Municipality (MDM) had decided to mainly improve, enhance and better water service delivery to rural communities as water borne systems were mainly located in more urban areas.

He noted that in the Maruleng Municipality there had been no water quota left due to problems with the new owner. In the same area water was consumed by farm workers from a dam that contained a human corpse.

The MDM currently had fifteen water treatment plants, with the Olifant River Barrage and the Nkowankowa Water Works being two of the fifteen plants currently operating in the region.

The Municipality had identified insufficient surface water, threats to water ground water protocol, inadequacy and a shortage of personnel to monitor water quality as key challenges facing the municipality.

To address the challenges, the Municipality had entered into partnerships with various role-players such as DWAF, who provided the regulatory support, the Limpopo provincial government that coordinated compliance by the Water Service Authorities, and the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, who monitored environmental-related matters and implemented law enforcement. DPLG provided policies and guidelines. The Municipality had also implemented an awareness campaign that focussed on health and hygiene, water pollution and the safe usage of water.
 
Mr Ramathoka said that the Municipality had not yet complied with the DWAF’s requirement to submit monthly reports, but assistance had been provided on the format of the report. In relation to the budget, it was noted that R6.5 million had been set aside for refurbishment, with another huge allocation for water related projects.

A graph illustrated the Municipality’s technical and scientific skills component to purify water (see attached graph). In order to ensure the effectiveness of water quality tests; physical, chemical and bacteriological tests were performed.
 
Discussion
Ms Maine said that she was surprised that the MDM did not have everything in place, given that they had an abundance of natural and other resources at their disposal. She added that the private businesses situated within the Municipality such as the Kruger National Park and the “Rain Queen”  were important.

Mr Ramathoka replied that the Kruger National Park had been engaged with several social responsibility activities, whilst the organisation controlling the Rain Queen’s affairs had allocated funding for bursaries to needy children in the area.

Mr M Sibuyana (IFP) said that the Maroleng water supply problems had been in existence for some time, and that he thought these would have been sorted out already.

Mr Ramathoka replied that a huge pipeline was in the process of construction, which would supply the whole area of Maruleng, with the water quality being of very high standard. R11 million  had been set aside for the purchase of a water supply facility, currently owned by a private entity.

Mr Sibuyana said that the MDM consisted of five different municipalities that received their water primarily from one dam. In light of this, he asked whether the Municipality had considered building another dam, especially with the changing weather patterns.

Mr Ramathoka replied that the MDM’s only dam had reached a capacity of 11 %, but the provincial government had indicated that it would build a large dam in Tzaneen to service most of the areas. In addition, R30 million had been allocated to service 10 villages at once .An awareness campaign had been launched to educate people to use water more sparingly.

Mr Combrinck asked what the situation was around debt owed by the Municipality to the Lephalele Water Board (LWB).

Mr Ramathoka admitted that the debt owed to the Lephalele Water Board (LWB) had indeed resulted in a thorny issue. He said that the problem was two fold as old debt had been taken over by the WSA and the allocation of R45 million by the DWAF helped to service debt of R120 million. The DWAF had indicated to the LWB that it was not willing to pay the interest on the debt. The current debt was an issue of concern as moneys paid for water services were first being allocated to initiatives other then water services, as services had been the last priority on the Municipality’s Priority Report. The best solution would be for the money to be paid directly to the LWB. The existing priority system had now been changed as there had been many operational problems. The system would be up and running in two months, with water as a top priority.

The meeting was adjourned.

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