Water crisis persists despite rain

Even with last week's rain and hailstorm Mangaung residents still have plenty to be concerned about when it comes the future of water security. PHOTO: MORGAN PIEK

Mangaung is still suffering from a severe drought, says the chairperson of Bloemwater, Tefetso Phitsane. The two dams supplying water to the metro, namely Welbedacht Dam and Rustfontein Dam, are both at extremely low levels of 9 percent and 25 percent respectively. Mangaung water restrictions have been adjusted from 20% to 30%, while the municipality says it will continue to work on improving its water infrastructure programme, as well as monitor water wastage through leaks.
Phitsane warned that residents should not become complacent now that we’ve received a few drops of rain.

“Don’t be deceived by the rain that you see outside.”

“It is nothing. It actually doesn’t make any impact at all. We are appealing to every Mangaung resident to do his part by ensuring that we try and reduce the usage of water. We literally don’t have water.”
Deputy Mayor of Mangaung, Lebohang Masoetsa, has also encouraged residents to report their boreholes to the municipality. Municipal by-laws require all those with boreholes to report them to the municipality as having a borehole does not automatically give you ownership of that water. Residents are further urged to continue to adhere to water restrictions, which include not watering lawns, and plants with hosepipes and irrigation systems. The hosing down of hard surfaces and car washing is also highly discouraged.
The municipality has written a letter to the Minister of Water and Sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane, the hope of being able to get water supply from the Katse Dam in Lesotho. Phitsane says that if we do not receive enough rain by the middle of December, Mangaung will be in serious trouble.
“In the next two months, if there’s no water released from the Katse Dam, we will run into serious problems. So we are hoping that the minister will be able to respond positively to that letter by releasing water from the Katse Dam. By mid-December, if nothing happens in terms of serious rain, we’ll then have serious problems.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Water Affairs is fast-tracking a planned water pipeline from the Gariep Dam in order to alleviate the water supply crisis in the Mangaung Metro Municipality.
Construction on the pipeline was initially planned to start by 2035, but the current drought and water shortage has urged the department to ramp up this schedule considerably.
Free State head of water affairs, Tseliso Ntili, says the R2 billion project will be completed as soon as possible. Ntili could not, however, provide an exact timeline for the completion of the project, nor say at what stage it is currently in. He added that there is no quick fix for the silting problem at the Welbedacht Dam, which provides water to at least 69% of Mangaung. The dam is currently silted up beyond 90%, which means even if we were to receive plenty of rain, the water would simply be lost. The dam’s water level is currently at 9%. Ntili says the problem is the result of a range of factors which include the high sandstone prevalence in the area, poor soil management practices by farmers, and the influence of the drought on erosion. – Seithati Semenokane & Earl Coetzee