Polokwane Municipality is currently experiencing water shortage affecting urban and rural areas due to multiple factors that include infrastructural challenges from Lepelle Northern Water. Among others, the infrastructural challenges include ageing infrastructure that results in regular mainline pipe bursts, pump failures and other operational failures like power failure at the two plants.
The second challenge is water restrictions as imposed by the Department of Water Affairs due to low dam level particularly at Ebenezer. The Department issued a directive in August 2019 to reduce raw water abstraction by 20% from both Olifants and Ebenezer schemes. A further directive to reduce abstraction by 15% was enforced recently in January 2020. The current situation is worsened by restrictions on raw water abstraction from the Ebenezer plant because it has reached the lowest levels. This has resulted in Lepelle Northern Water (LNW) reducing potable bulk water supply to Polokwane by the same amount.
Lepelle Northern Water draws 44ML of water per day from Ebenezer to Polokwane municipal supply areas. With the water restrictions in place, Ebenezer is only able to supply 37ML per day to Polokwane in an effort to sustain the dam until it rains adequately. Currently, the Ebenezer Dam base is sitting below 20%.
The Ebenezer plant is about 70km away from Polokwane and the mainline to Polokwane has a number of take-offs to the areas on its path to the city and by the time the water reaches the city area there is a deficit of about 7ML per day.
The restrictions have affected all areas of supply on the Ebenezer line to Polokwane including Segwashi, Boyne, Ga-Mamabolo, Ga-Molepo, Mentz, Badimong, Mankweng, Ga-Thoka, Ga-Mothiba, Dalmada and the Seshego and city supply area.
The third challenge is the regular load shedding which affects the purification and transportation of water to the supply areas. The current situation load shedding by ESKOM is further contributing to the dire situation we have at Lepelle Northern Water plants (Ebenezer and Olifants WTW). In the past two weeks we have seen ESKOM implementing stage 2 load shedding which has led to see water treatment plants and pump stations been affected twice in 24 hours.
Under these circumstances, the combined bulk water supply from the the three water schemes (Dap Naude, Ebenezer and Olifantspoort Schemes) is inadequate and cannot meet the current demand of water in our supply area. There is a deficit of over 30ML per day, which must be supplied to Polokwane area.
In order to deal with this crisis, the municipality has no other option, but to introduce the implementation of a water shedding or restriction operation that will facilitate water distribution to all areas of supply. The operation involves closing the reservoir outlets at night to maintain the reservoir levels at a high and ensuring that all areas have sustainable water supply. The Municipality will close the reservoir outlets at night from 20H00 until 04H00 in the morning on a daily basis. The exercise helps in accumulating water quicker as there will be no usage during the said timeframes and as such, the system will be better pressurised when the water is released in the mornings.
The municipality and Lepelle Northern Water have planned and prepared short term as well as medium and long-term interventions aimed at contributing more water into the system.
Lepelle Northern Water has completed a 10ML package plant at Olifantspoort and now busy with water testing. They are also busy with refurbishing of the dysfunctional pumps at both plants.
The municipality is busy with underground water project and a manganese plant-upgrading project. The Seshego water treatment plant has also commenced. 67 boreholes have been drilled so far.
It is for this reason that the Polokwane Municipality, Lepelle Northern Water and the Department encourages all water users to embrace the value of this scarce resource and make water conservation a way of life. The conservation of water requires all stakeholders to hold hands to safeguard this precious resource.
We are currently exploring various ways of reducing the amount of water pressure from the taps including flow control valves that we can install in businesses and households as part of water conservation.
We are confident that all users will work together with them to play their part in reducing demand during this period to ensure that water will be available for all. Water is very scarce, yet precious commodity and must be used wisely.