Community Municipal News

TCLM’s Water Woes

Michele du Plessis

Thaba Chweu Municipality is in really deep water regarding the provision of potable water to the communities. The lack of reports concerning not only the state of our drinking water but also the state of our river highlights the problems many communities face. This is not only the case in Sabie. Lydenburg and Graskop are also suffering from water woes.

According to the 2018 Municipal Strategic Self-Assessment (MuSSA) survey, (completed on October 5th, 2018) the Thaba Chweu Local Municipality scored 0.79% in the overall “business health” of the municipality regarding the ability to fulfil its water services function. The Department of Water and Sanitation has overseen the annual use of the MuSSA to survey to determine the vulnerability levels across key service areas/business attributes.

The vulnerability index is scored as follows: 0 – 50% Extreme vulnerability; 50 – 60% High vulnerability; 60 – 75% Moderate vulnerability; 75 – 100% Low vulnerability.

The MuSSA asks senior municipal financial and technical managers 5 clear and relatively simple “essence” questions that cover 18 key business health attributes, and thereby generates key strategic flags (as opposed to deep technical detail, which is captured elsewhere).

On October 24th, 2018, “the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation has reprimanded the Department of Water and Sanitation for its “laxity” in releasing Green and Blue Drop reports since 2014. The department is obligated to release Green and Blue Drop reports annually, which give a clear picture of the quality of South Africa’s water resources.” From media statement released.

The Green Drop Report is a status is given to municipalities that comply with good wastewater discharge standards, while the Blue Drop Report provides information on the quality of drinking water, as per the South African National Standard for Drinking Water. The Department of Water Affairs initiated the drinking water quality (DWQ) regulation programme in 2005 with the objective of ensuring the improvement of tap water quality by means of compliance monitoring.

“It is unacceptable that the 2016 reports are still in the draft stage in 2018. We are of the view that department officials are getting paid for doing nothing. In January 2017, the department promised to deliver the report in October, we are now a year from that promised date yet the report is still not here. What the department is doing is illegal, because this laxity undermines the responsibility to ensure the quality of our water resource,” Mr Johnson emphasised.

According to the Blue Drop Report of 2010, TCLM had a score of 45.1%, compared to the 2009 score of 70.5%. TCLM scored a G (Not complying. No Water Safety. Plan- implying DWQ related risks of this specific water supply system are not managed at all) in both the ‘Compliance with National Standard’ and ‘Failure Response Management’. The regulatory impression (P170) states: “There is sufficient reason to be seriously concerned about the condition of drinking water quality management of Thaba Chweu Local Municipality. DWQ records compel the Department to notify residents and visitors to take precautionary measures when consuming water in this area (especially within the Coromandel system), until such time when the municipality can prove consistent supply of safe water.”

The TCLM September 2018 Section 71 report (no newer Section 71 report is available) states the capital expenditure through own funding and conditional grants as follows: Water Projects Original Budget – R16 000 000.00; YTD Expenditure R410 675.31; % YTD Budget 3%. For Sewerage: Projects Original Budget – R4 259 840.00; YTD Expenditure R0.00; % YTD Budget 0%.

The committee is of the view that the department’s negligence is a direct contributor to the current challenge of water pollution caused by sewage spillages into our rivers because assessment mechanisms are not being implemented. “Without detailed annual assessments, all government spheres will not know their risk factors and would not know what mitigating factors to implement,” Mr Johnson emphasised.

Capricorn FM reported the following: “The Economic Freedom Fighters in Mpumalanga says it has taken a step to file a lawsuit against the Thaba Chweu Municipality for its ignorance in providing clean water to its communities. EFF PR Councillor at the municipality Exodus Mabanne says the municipality’s water purification network has not been operating optimally since 2016 and this has led to the discovery of impurities in the water and complaints from communities following a diarrhoea outbreak in November 2018.”

It is an extremely scary thought to think what the condition of the water in 2019 would be like if the figures in the few available reports are taken into account. The question is: what will TCLM do about these problems? Only time will tell…

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