Water crisis looms

SHARE   |   Sunday, 18 January 2015   |   By Ditiro Motlhabane

• Floods but no water in taps

• Tsabong and Molepolole already hit


• Students go to school without a bath

In a week that the Department of Meteorological Services announced below average rainfall for the remainder of the rainy season some parts of the country are already experiencing acute water shortages. By Friday afternoon most parts of Molepolole village were on a second day without any supply from standpipes, while others claimed that the problem had been persistent since last week Sunday. For the whole day on Thursday there was no water in the village, and the water authority has warned that it could get worse.  


Speaking from Tuli Block on Friday, Kweneng District Council chairman Jeffrey Sibisibi- who is the councillor for Ntloedibe ward said he was aware of the disruptions in water supply in the village earlier during the week but said people should not panic because the problem is being addressed. He said after consulting with the water authorities in the village he was informed that two of the six boreholes in Malwelwe, which supplying Molepolole and neighbouring villages, broke down last week. He said a contractor was on sight to resuscitate the boreholes and restore supply by close of business on Friday.

But residents are not convinced. They still accuse Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) of failing to deliver since the takeover from Water affairs and Councils' water department.  They expressed fears that acute water shortage could be returning to the village, which for a number of years struggled with poor supply and disruptions. Borakalalo ward resident, Edwin Tsalaile said the painful part is that nobody from WUC has bothered to warn them about the current disruptions. He said while they have been using rain water collected in containers for bathing, it is not safe for drinking and cooking in the household. "Unavailability of water in service centres compromises service delivery because officers have to leave their offices for hours to relieve themselves at their homes. In some instance, children have been sent home early from school because there was no water," he said. 


"For two days now we have not had water. We have been buying bottled water from the shops but that’s unsustainable. A whole family cannot wash with such small amounts when we have to send children to school and go to work. A re theogele re sa tlhapa?" said Boitumelo Rannoba of Mogogoru ward on Friday afternoon.

On Friday afternoon Molepolole North Member of Parliament Mohammed Khan said he had received complaints about the disruptions. He said officers at WUC had informed him that they were working around the clock to repair damages to the electrical connections to the submersible pumps that drive the borehole. The electrical system was damaged by lightning during heavy rains last week, which caused disruptions, he said. He promised to follow up the issue to ensure that supply is restored as soon as possible. 


Last year the minister of minerals, energy and water resources Kitso Mokaila told Molepolole residents that government had commissioned six boreholes near Malwelwe village to supply the village and the nearby Thamaga and Thebephatswa Airbase with water. He said government has also approved funds for the refurbishment and renewal of the water supply network in the village to avoid breakages.  

WUC Communications and Public Relations Manager Matida Mmipi confirmed that two boreholes supplying the village broke down early last week. She said the remaining boreholes have been supplying the villages but such supply was disrupted by the landscape. She said some wards in the village are on top of hills and therefore experienced disruptions longer while those lower are doing better. "We have been bowsing for institutions to improve supply while our engineers are working on the fixing the boreholes. Although we cannot commit ourselves to when such work will be completed we would like to have restored supply as early as yesterday," she said. 


Mmipi emphasised that Batswana should grow accustomed to the gravity of the water scarcity in the country and devise strategies to conserve it as the country plunges into drought years. She warned that the situation could deteriorate in the future with rainfall, which recharges aquifers and replenishes dams, becoming unreliable and inconsistent. "People should appreciate the fact that we are in a drought," she said.   

Further south, Member of Parliament for Kgalagadi South Frans van der Westhuizen has been receiving a lot of complaints from residents in the kgotla meetings he has been addressing in the constituency. He said having been a council chairman in the district before ascending to Parliament he is aware of acute water shortages in his constituency. In an interview with The Patriot on Sunday midweek, he said residents in most villages he has been addressing kgotla meetings, raise the water situation as the major problem.  He said in the Bokspits catchment area the desalination plant fed by seven boreholes is currently awaiting refurbishment. He said to address challenges; two new boreholes drilled by Water Affairs department will soon be connected to the supply system. But he believes the long term solution will be a cross border supply connection for the Bokspits catchment area to the neighbouring South Africa because the desalinisation plant requires expensive expertise and funding every time it has to be refurbished. "When the plant breaks down we have a major crisis due to unavailability of freshwater boreholes in the area. We are having challenges securing funding to refurbish the plant and pumps. We need an estimated P5 m but we remain hopeful to get funding in the next financial year," said van der Westhuizen.


He said the Middlepits catchment area uses a cross border connection. The area covers four villages of Gakhibana, Kolonkwaneng, Bogogobo, Middlepits and Khuis and so far there have no no major complaints except for minor disruptions here and there. Van der Westhuizen however said they want to extend the supply network in the area.

In Tsabong, public servants told The Patriot on Sunday that they have been experiencing disruptions in supply and even had to go for a number of days without water. They have been depending on tanks connected to their residences, but struggled at the work place. van der Westhuizen said to arrest the problem a 50m3 borehole is about to be connected to the Tsabong network to improve supply. He said the recent water shortage was due to network breakdown after the rupture of some pipes. 


In some instances some residents are said to have threatened to use the little water bowsed for public consumption to water their small stock because they cannot sustain backyard gardens.  van der Westhuizen said government has responded to shortage of water for livestock in the area by introducing a borehole component to the Livestock Management and Infrastructure Development (LIMID) assistance programme to assist farmers to equip boreholes with solar panels. The programme was introduced specifically to address water shortages and enhance the poverty eradication programme. He said they have presented another proposal to government that some old boreholes under the Council and Water Affairs department be refurbished and equipped to alleviate water shortage in the area, especially in villages like Struizendam that do not have boreholes. 

In Maralaleng and Omaweneno villages residents also complained about disruptions to water supply. They are not happy with bowsers because they take too long and often breakdown, he said. "This December was not a good one. There are complaints about turnaround time to address disruptions to water supply and complaints from most villages with some people calling in the middle of the night demanding solutions," he said.  


All in all van der Westhuizen believes that generally the whole country has a water problem that requires a holistic approach to find a permanent solution to.  Mmipi is quick to concede that the Kgalagadi area has a serious problem of water supply. She points to poor and erratic rainfall as the main problem as boreholes are not replenished over the years, which presents challenges for supply. She said the cross border connection they have entered has also proven to be insufficient as more villages still need more water. "We all need to accept that there is no water in the country, and we need to seriously use it sparingly," she said. 

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