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Water supply to improve soon, say Amatola

Water supply to improve soon, say Amatola


Phase 2 of the upgrade to the James Kleynhans Water Treatment Works (JKWTW) will be complete by the end of March 2022, according to Amatola Water, the implementing agent for the upgrade.

And there will be an “increased water supply in December 2021” from JKWTW for Makana’s December holiday season, said Amatola Water spokesperson Nosisa Sogayise.

Meanwhile, run-off from the recent soaking rains is entering Howieson’s Poort Dam and being pumped back to Makhanda from the west.

According to Makana Municipality spokesperson Anele Mjekula, the plant is operational despite being unused for some time. “It needed six hours to recharge the pipeline and there were no subsequent hassles,” Mjekula said.

Run-off from the recent rains enters Howieson’s Poort Dam on Tuesday 9 November. The dam is now 23% full and water is again being pumped to the Waainek Water Treatment Works on the western side of town. The main storage dam, Settler’s Dam, is just 4% full. Photo: Rod Amner

Last month, Grocott’s reported that the long-stalled upgrade of James Kleynhans Water Treatment Works had been delayed further – until June 2022.

The revision of the deadline back to March 2022 is good news for beleaguered Makhanda residents, many of whom have struggled under the Makana Municipality’s strict water rotation system. Some high-lying areas have been without water for weeks at a time.

However, the recent emergency shutdown and repair at JKWTW has accented the ongoing precarity of Makana’s water supply. The increase of the water level at Howieson’s Poort has brought welcome respite.

Howieson’s was at 23% capacity on Wednesday, 10 November. The level must be a minimum of 20% for the plant to operate at full capacity, Mjekula said. “However, without a continuous feed, the dam can get depleted in less than a week. Hence, the Waainek treatment plant is often operated at 50% when levels are low so that we can prolong the availability.”

About 35mm rain was recorded in the catchment in the past week. Water first filled the underground water table before enhancing the dam level – by a meagre 5%.

This 5% increase in the dam’s level equates to about 44 megalitres, which can supply Waainek for about five days if the treatment plant is operated at full capacity, Mjekula said.

Delays at James Kleynhans

The most recent James Kleynhans Water Treatment Works (JKWTW) upgrade contract was awarded by implementing agent Amatola Water to Mamlambo Construction in January 2020 and was expected to be completed by March 2021.

The upgrade – when completed – will double the waterworks’ pumping capacity from around ten megaliters a day to 20, which would be enough to supply the entire town. The city uses between 18 megaliters a day, according to the Makana Municipality’s water crisis web page. This could effectively end the water supply crisis facing the town.

Amatola Water’s Sogayise said the project has been delayed due to the “pandemic and contractor cash flow challenges” but that “Amatola Water has intervened to ensure the phase is running smoothly”.

Mamlombo Construction was awarded the contract for 14 months, which ended in July 2021. However, after Covid and the lockdown, the completion date was revised to September 2021, according to Amatola Water.

“The new contract completion date is March 2022; however, Amatola Water intends to effect penalties from 21 September 2021 as the contractor is in breach of contract,” said Sogayise.

Sogayise did, however, say they should be able to “accommodate Municipal demand” by December 2021.

The water supply problems

Before the drought, only Makhanda East received water from the James Kleynhans Water Treatment Works. The Glen Melville Dam supplies James Kleynhans and gets its water from the Orange and Fish River systems. According to Makana’s water crisis resources web page, the water treatment works currently has a pumping capacity of 10-12 megaliters a day.

When operational, the Waainek Treatment Works supplies the western side of the town and receives its water pumped from the Howieson’s Poort Dam, above Settler’s Dam. The western side has a pumping capacity of about eight megalitres a day. For much of last year and this year, Waainek has not been operational because the dam levels at Howieson’s Poort and Settlers’ have been too low to pump.

This means that most of the town must get water pumped from the James Kleynhans Water Treatment Works. However, the municipality has implemented a rotational system because it cannot pump enough water to the city.

Peter Sturrock, a retired civil engineer with experience of working on bulk water projects which is a member of the Makana Residents Association (MRA), said the Municipality is doing “a reasonable job under the circumstances”.

“There is water fairly consistently on alternate days, although some areas are having it much worse. However, the reality is that, had the situation been managed properly from the outset, this situation would not have arisen,” Sturrock said.

Last month, the MRA released a detailed statement titled ‘In 2021 why is James Kleynhans not Updated’, which lays out the timeline of the costly failed upgrades for the James Kleynhans Water Treatment works over the last decade.

According to the MRA, the main problem is not the supply of water to the Makana water system but “the ineptitude of the running and maintenance of the plant”.

“The increase of water capacity to 20 megalitres a day leads to more leaks, burst pipes, road potholes, sewage problems, and electrical problems. Filters, valves, pump sets, etc., need to be replaced over and over again,” the MRA report stated.

“The public is dealing with a rotational water supply, yet they are paying for a full service from Makana. Many people in Makana survive with no water from their tap. Other people in Makana are not using any municipal water and use 100% rainwater from their own Jojo tanks.”

The upgrade – which was initially set to be completed by 2017 – has been abandoned multiple times due to payment and performance issues between the Municipality, contractors and implementing agent, as detailed in the MRA’s statement.

The Department of Water and Sanitation is funding this iteration of the upgrade, and Soyagise says that “there have been no financial disputes in the project”.

The MRA water report

Here is a sampling of the problems at the James Kleynhans Water Treatment Works, from February 2019 to September 2021, detailed by the Makana Residents’ Association (MRA).

Date JKWTW working Information published by Makana Pump
13-Feb-19 50% capacity Desludging is still in process. Two pumps
21-Feb-19 50% capacity Filters need to be replaced R1 Million from MISA One pump operational
12-Mar-19   Boreholes, GoG water deliveries  
15-Mar-19   AW to install two additional pumps to produce 10 Ml/day by 22 March One pump
09-Apr-19 Full capacity 10 Ml/day produced, 18 Ml/day usage, Jojo tanks and boreholes needed No water at Waainek
23-May-19 Full capacity The Municipality is not aware of any household that does not have water.  
06-Jun-19 Pump failure 5 Ml/day  
11-Jun-19   Unauthorised valve opening Botha Hill One pump
06-Aug-19 Shutdown 8 hours Work at plant finished, installing cables, electrical panels One pump
05-Aug-19 Shutdown Phase 2 upgrades One pump
15-Aug-19 Full capacity   Two pumps
26-Sep-19   All reservoirs would be closed from 6 pm to 6 am, and that the Bothas Hill reservoir would be closed every Sunday.  
    The municipality has found that the significant fluctuation of pressure caused damage to the older infrastructure and led to more substantial water losses from underground ball hydrants, etc.  
  Shutdown Upgrades  
27-Sep Shutdown Low pressure  
17-Oct-19 Pump failure Transformer blew fuses One transformer, one pump
07-Nov-19   Burst pipe Botha Hill pipeline  
18-Nov-19   Zonal water rationing  
10-Jan-20 Motor failure   one pump
05-Feb-20   Botha Hill 1 0%, Botha Hill 2 30%  
18-Apr-20 Shutdown Air compressor stopped  
19-Mar-20   No load-shedding at JKWTW  
02-May-20 50% capacity Water pump problems, new pump installed a week ago. 18 Ml/day capacity to 11 Ml/day one pump operational
21-May-20   JKWTW is still in progress to get functioning  
06-Jun-20   Offtake mainline pipe from Botha damaged, massive loss of water.  
10-Jul-20 Shutdown Power outage, repairing panels  
29-Jul-20 Motor failure, 50% capacity Fan not working one pump operational
02-Aug-20   Remove the whole pump set for repairs in JNB one pump
23-Aug-20 Interruption Installing a bulk water meter  
02-Oct-20 50% capacity    
05-Feb-21 50% capacity Disruptions over last week, need to fix the pump  
04-Mar-21 Full capacity Manco Enterprise to supply and install pumpset, Donnlee Pump Tech, AUMA, and EPS  
05-Mar-21   Borehole not suitable for human consumption  
21-Mar-21 50% capacity Cannot transfer water from JKWTW to WWTW. 5Ml/day not 10 Ml/day one pump
20-Apr-21 Interruption Gate valve on 450 mm main from JKWTW to Botha Hill got stuck.  
27-May-21 Interruption Slim chance water supply will be open  
05-Jul-21   Burst pipe  
07-Jul-21   Botha Hill closed, Massive leak at the corner of K and O streets.  
05-Aug-21   Worcester water leak  
08-Aug-21   Sewage leak  
18-Aug-21 Shutdown New transformer, finalisation of diversion line for new raw water inlet. Water leak Fitzroy  
20-Aug-21   Burst pipe Durban Street.  
22-Aug-21 Interruption Installation of zonal meters  
26-Aug   A burst pipe on transfer line (AGAIN), joining PVC pipe and Asbestos pipe, Vukani water pipe damaged, Water leak Hobson St. Sewage leak at Army Camp.  
31-Aug-21   African St./Somerset Cnr. Valve leak. Reconstruction approved for over R100,000 by road construction, not the municipality  
03-Sep-21   Burst main pipe New Street.