What’s going on with Maruleng’s Water

Maruleng’s residents use an average of 573 litres of municipal water per day and around 7% of water users use 70% of the water consumed.

This is according to a report commissioned by The Association for Water and Rural Development (AWARD) on water conservation, water infrastructure functioning, non -revenue water and water consumption in times of drought. The report was shared at a small meeting of stakeholders in January 2018.

“This means each resident’s current consumption per day is more than 10 times what Cape Town residents are currently restricted to using under Level 6B water restrictions, which came into effect on 1 February 2018 and limit people to using 50 litres per person, per day,” says AWARD Director Dr. Sharon Pollard. The national average is about 250 litres per person, per day.

What accounts for these staggering figures? “In Maruleng, some of the main issues are leaks in sewer lines, visible leaks, dysfunctioning water meters or incorrectly installed water meters, irrigation and leaking infrastructure. The numbers can also be tempered by the fact that the highest users are estates that accommodate several households. Even so, water use is still excessive,” says Willem Wegelin of WRP Engineers Pty Ltd, who produced the report as part of AWARD’s USAID-supported work in the Olifants River Catchment.

Very high water usage figures for Maruleng weren’t the only alarming statistics to come out of Willem’s investigation, which is based on global best practice to create more efficient water consumption and usage patterns in a climate changing world.

“In Mametja Sekororo, it’s the other extreme. The average person has access to only between 15 and 21 litres per day; less than half of Cape Town’s current restrictions.

This is despite there being 270 million rands of infrastructure standing dormant instead of servicing this community. This is a huge frustration for the community,” he notes.

While the issues may differ in different areas of Maruleng, “we need to remember is that there is historical context to these issues and we’re all part of a shared system; we need to think of everyone who is affected by how we use water in the Olifants River Catchment, including Kruger National Park and our neighbours in Mozambique who rely directly on the Olifants River,” says Dr. Pollard.

She highlights the fact that the data also showed little to no variations to water use between 2014 and 2017, despite being in a drought, and low seasonal variation. “There is a big gap between people’s perceptions and their behavior, because although people were aware of the drought, it didn’t change how much water they used,” she explains, showing little heed for how this may affect users downstream.

“In fact, in 2016, AWARD facilitated the release of flows into the Olifants River from De Hoop Dam to keep the river running. The Blyde Dam was very close to running dry,” she notes.

AWARD facilitated another release earlier in January 2018 too. “Our data shows that river flows in the Olifants are at a third of what they should currently be for this time of year, with average rainfall for this season sitting on about 70mls (at time of publishing) when it should be 400mls or more. There is no doubt we are in a drought situation again. Our actual use is still within the allocation for now, but it is also three times more than forecast. Our attitude to using water has to change, or we will run out,” she added.

Other issues the report highlights in Hoedspruit and Kamperus in particular are water flows at night, which are two and a half times what is considered international best practice. “We also see pressure drops in the system and other communities where pumping continues 24/7,” adds Willem.

Billing is another real problem. “Hoedspruit and Kamperus only bill for about half of the million cubes of water used per annum. This means that revenue water is almost equal to non-revenue water, which is completely unsustainable,” he adds. In addition, water tariffs are very low compared to national averages and do not promote water use efficiency.

Municipalities are responsible for implementing plans for more efficient water consumption and usage patterns, so Willem urges residents to work with them. “We are proposing ways to address the situation, with major recommendations including advising Maruleng to cut consumption by more than half to 250 litres per person, per day and reduce non revenue water losses to 35% in line with national averages, fix infrastructure and align its billing with national averages.

“If all the problems were rectified, the municipality could generate nearly R3 million rand extra per annum, while cutting consumption and usage to more acceptable limits,” he notes. “There is tremendous scope for improvement towards all around sustainability.”

Other interesting information from the report:

Along with the data and infrastructure assessments, Willem also looked at perceptions, attitudes and knowledge around water supply. Respondents reported that they rely on the following sources
– 35% of respondents have access to piped water (tap) inside their houses
– 30% use communal taps
– 15% of the respondents source water from mountain streams
– 10% reported that the Municipality provides them with water through municipal
trucks
– 10% rely solely on borehole water

65% reported that the quality of water was not good/not treated, based on bad taste, non treatment
of water, odour and colour of water. There was a high reliance on boreholes and bottled water.

With regard to billing:

– 73% of respondents receive their water bills on a monthly basis
–14% do not receive a water bill
–67% reported that they understand their water bill
– 80% of respondents are aware of the scarce water resources in the country but implementation is limited
– 20% of respondents were satisfied with the level of service provided by the Municipality ENDS

What can you do?

– Report visible leaks.
– Use water sparingly
– Implement water wise practices – grey water use, fix household leaks, xeriscape gardening,
– Insist on a metered connection and consumption
– Pay your bill
– Work with the municipality to mitigate risks

 

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Funding

RESILIM-O is funded by USAID