Power and Water Reports – Oliver Rissik

Water. Due to recent good rains during August and September, the current water situation in Bitou is stable. However, shortly before the rains, phase 1 water restrictions were being considered by Council. This illustrates how dependent we are here on the climate and how precarious our water supply actually is.

The Roodefontein Dam is 100% of capacity, up from 71% in July. The Keurbooms River flow fell to the 300 liters/sec flow (at which point pumping is to cease) in July, but has over the past three months increased to consistently over 1000 l/sec. This flow will decrease as we move into the hot dry summer months. It is, therefore, incumbent on all residents of Plett to use water sparingly during the coming months. With the coming season, water consumption for the town will increase to an average of 14 to 15 Megaliters/day. The off-season average consumption is between 7 Ml/day and 8 Ml/day.

The new pump installed at the Keurbooms River pump station is having problems which are being resolved by the supplier, and the second pump is at present being refurbished. Therefore, only one pump is currently being used, and consequently water is periodically being withdrawn from the Roodefontein Dam.

The intended housing planned in the 2nd Draft Spatial Development Framework for Bitou is of great concern as little attention appears to be given to the water requirements for this massive planned housing expansion, albeit to take place over many years.

Budget(purified and waste-water). Water capital budget has been cut. Pre-Covid total figure was R 40.3 mil. and revised figure is R 31.87 mil. – of this only R 13.9 mil. is for upgrades. The balance is for new work (housing!).   Operating budget is R 13 mil., up R1 mil. from last financial year. (R17 mil. was requested). There is no budget allowance for fiber cement pipe replacement this financial year – a very short-sighted situation – Water Deptartment is not happy with this. The town’s piping is well past the design life of these pipes, hence the numerous and continuous pipe breaks. Poortijes pipes have been replaced but this was, in fact, not as urgent as the town area.  This budget cut has far reaching ramifications – water wastage (although not greatly significant) and a serious amount of overtime, as well as time wasted on repairs which could be usefully applied elsewhere. There is over 300 km of water piping in the Bitou area of which a small amount is relatively new. Unless a substantial amount is allocated for replacement, the current situation will persist.

Boreholes. Several boreholes drilled in the last two years have been brought into commission and together with the boreholes that were drilled many years ago in Kwanokathula will be able to deliver approximately 5 Ml/day when used. However, no boreholes are being used at present. The boreholes at the Treatment Plant and on the Golf Course will, if necessary, be brought into operation during the Christmas season.

The Desalination Plant is at present operating well, having undergone major maintenance during the year. It will only be brought into operation towards the end of November and runs and until the end of April next year. It delivers 2 Ml/day.

Wadrift Off-channel Dam.Nothing further has been done in connection with the construction of this dam at present and, due to its cost, alternatives are being considered for the water augmentation, namely commissioning of additional boreholes and the upgrading of the Desalination Plant capacity.

Kurland Village water supply is due to receive a R 1 million water upgrade, and Natures Valley is to have a new borehole drilled to alleviate its water supply.

The Ebenezer bulk sewerage tender has been awarded and work will commence shortly.

Kranshoek. The new sewer line is operating and the new water supply line, due to have been operational, is behind schedule but should be working before the end of this year.

Sewer blockages continue to be a constant problem and sabotage is being investigated. However, the incidents of blockages have been reduced from an average of 200/month to below 100/month in the recent month or two.

Power. The Covid lockdown and subsequent absence of infected and quarantined workers has played havoc with the day-to-day running of both Electrical and Water Departments. However, apart from normal maintenance, which has obviously taken precedence in daily work, some capital projects have progressed.

The major power upgrade including the installation of the 20 KVa transformer serving New Horisons and Kwanokathula has been completed and now awaits an Eskom shutdown to connect the new system. The commissioning of the Magistrate’s Court substation and infrastructure upgrading in New Horisons itself is in progress with the contractor having commenced work.

At both substations at Market Square and at the Total Garage, work on switchgear replacement, has not commenced, but, as mentioned previously, temporary provision has been made to obviate problems that may occur. The Market Square substation upgrade will commence shortly as a high priority project.

Street light replacement continues with old light fittings being replaced with new LED fittings. The replacement work has used the fittings acquired in the 2018/19 financial year and will continue until all units purchased are fitted. However, there is no budget allowance in the 2020/21 financial year for additional street light replacement. It is the Electrical Department’s plan eventually to replace all Bitou street light fittings with LED fittings. Due to budget cuts, Odlands street lights will not be installed in the foreseeable future.

Load shedding earlier this year has caused major problems with the electrical infrastructure and sewer pump stations. Power surges across the area at switch-on were eventually reduced by a phased power switch-on across Bitou.

The capital budget for electrical work for 2020/21 was a paltry R10.7 million Rand (now increased to R13, 5 million), and R20.5 million for the 2021/22 financial year. For 2022/23 financial year R21.9 million has been budgeted. These amounts are hardly sufficient to upgrade the ageing electrical infrastructure.

The system for individual power users of solar power to feed back excess power into the municipal grid is in place, tariffs have been agreed, and all that remains is for the system to be loaded onto the municipal billing system. All users of solar power will have to register, whether connected to the municipal grid for reverse feed or not.

The tender for Automated Meter Reading has been finalised and the roll-out for bulk users (only bulk users at present) will start in the new financial year. Approval has been given for Smart Meter installation and the tender for installation is in progress. A pilot section will be done initially. These meters will replace the current residential meters and will be able to be used for either credit or prepaid function. Meter reading will be done automatically.

Kurland Village is to receive a R 4 million electrification upgrade.

Bitou Municipality has been landed with 3000 solar water heaters as part of National Government’s water heater project. Nothing has happened regarding the installation or, apparently, regarding the training of installers. A letter has been sent from the Electrical Department to the Government Department involved requesting expediting of the project. However, this looks as though it will be a major white elephant with Bitou having to pick up the tab for the storage of these units.

Longships area power outages during October were due to old mini-sub problems in the area. At least 5 new mini-subs are required (of the order of R 2.5 mill.) to replace ageing ones in the town, but due to budget constraints these are not likely to be obtained this financial year. Temporary repairs to existing old ones are time consuming and costly. However, 2 new mini-subs have been installed in the Longships area. An open tender for mini-subs and switchgear will be let in order to have units available for emergency replacement.

General. The Municipality continues to build and provide low cost housing at an unprecedented rate. There are plans to purchase large tracts of additional land for low cost housing, and, as mentioned earlier, very little thought appears to be given to the supply of water that will be required for this additional housing. The Wadrift Off-channel Dam for the storage of additional water from the Keurbooms River has been under discussion for more than 10 years, but with the current cost escalation this project is becoming more and more unlikely to come to fruition. The additional housing brings in large numbers or people to the town who have no chance of finding employment and the municipality has yet to come up with any viable plan to provide jobs for its current residents let alone the thousands of new residents they want to let in.

Budget cuts are mentioned above for both water and power infrastructure, yet the Municipality sees fit to spend large amounts of funding for excessive ad hoc fencing, hundreds of thousands spent on personnel uniforms, office furniture, various festivals etc., and other unauthorized or irregular expenditure, instead of this being diverted to providing funding for the considerably underfunded power and water infrastructure upgrading and maintenance.