Water Report 2021 – Peter Pyke

The water catchments serving the Plett area seem to have escaped the severe drought being experienced inland and in the Eastern Cape. Rainfall has been sufficient to keep the Roodefontein Dam at high levels and the flow at the Keurbooms extraction works safely above the level at which abstraction is curtailed.  This has meant that the imposition of water restrictions has not been required in 2021. The recent November deluge will ensure that Roodefontein Dam keeps spilling and the healthy Keurbooms flows allow sufficient abstraction to tide Plett over the holiday season where peak water use more than doubles to some 19 Megalitres/day. All systems will be fully functional over the holiday period and no major issues are anticipated.

The Ecological Reserve for the Keurbooms River has recently been promulgated in the Government Gazette. The Reserve has been determined as 34.9% of the Mean Annual Runoff. This is similar to other rivers in the area. It will place a legal constraint on the amount of water we can abstract both in terms of rate and total volume of abstraction and may hasten the need for off-channel storage such as the proposed Wadrift Dam to bridge periods of low flow in the Keurbooms when abstraction is curtailed. With the high rate of proposed new development taking place in Plett, the need to address the longer-term access to water resources is becoming urgent.

The Department of Water Services has re-introduced the Green Drop and Blue Drop reporting system for waste and potable water quality testing respectively, after a few years’ hiatus. This will be a boost to transparency and accountability for delivery of these services although Bitou has always been rated top or near top position. Many other municipalities fail dismally if they report at all.

Bitou is well served by an effective water team where the water quality supplied is good, regular maintenance is performed while leaks and pipe breaks are quickly addressed. However, much of the aging pipe network with its high cost for repairing breaks and the water lost, needs to be replaced. Although some pipe replacement is planned, the budget is inadequate to ensure sufficient replacement within a reasonable time scale. One of our tasks will be to lobby for balanced budgetary provision so that the necessary maintenance and equipment replacement is adequately provided for.

Wastewater Collection, Treatment & Disposal Facilities                    Bill Alexander


I took over the oversight of the Waste Water Treatment and Disposal Facilities from Oliver Rissik in May of this year.  I wish to thank Oliver for the excellent work he has done looking after this portfolio for several years.

The wastewater infrastructure consists of gravity sewers, pump stations and the wastewater treatment works. The condition and operation of each of these aspects will be considered in this report.

  2. The sewer system is generally in good condition.
  3. On averagebetween 6-8 blockages are reported daily.  The target is that blockages are dealt within 4 hours and always at least on the same day.  This target is normally met.
  4. Approximately 80% of all blockages are caused by human behaviour such as dumping rubbish into sewer manholes,particularly in areas where cast iron manhole covers have been stolen.  It is proposed that a public awareness campaign be launched next year to try and bring this statistic down.
  5. TheKranshoek sewer system is currently being upgraded.
  6. Areas where capacity problems occur are the Kurland informal settlement,Kwanokuthula, Wittedrif and Green Valley.  Budget allocation should be prioritised for upgrading these areas.
  8. The Municipality operates a total of about 70 sewage pump sites of which 30 can be classified as major pump stations.  The maintenance of these is critical to prevent spillages, particularly in the low-lying beach areas.
  9. The maintenance of the mechanical andelectrical equipment for the stations is generally well managed and a preventive maintenance plan is in place.  However, like everything else it is under budgeted.
  10. Approximately90% of the pump stations have emergency generators to deal with power outages, and all the ones near the beaches are properly equipped.
  11. Some of the pump stations have agingfibre cement rising mains and attention will have to be given to these before they start failing.  The Kwanokuthula and Piesang Valley rising mains have been identified for urgent attention.
  12. Planning should begin for replacing the existing 4 pump stations servingPiesang Valley with a single large station located near Brackenridge.

Bitou operates two wastewater treatment works (WWTW), namely the Kurland and the Gansevlei WWTWs.  It should be noted that in a Daily Maverick article earlier this year it was found that Bitou is the only town in the country that operates 2 or more plants that consistently produce effluent that is within the specified standards.  This is a remarkable achievement and indicates that the plants are well maintained and operated.  However, the challenge lies in ensuring that sufficient resources are budgeted to ensure that this can be maintained into the future.

Kurland WWTW 

  1. This plant serves the Crags area.
  2. It currentlyhas a design capacity of 500m3/d.
  3. Planshave been drawn up to double this capacity to 1000m3/d and this should come on line in 2023.

Gansevlei WWTW 

This is Bitou’s main plant and is located near Old Nicks just off the N2.  It has a capacity of 6200m3/d.  An assessment of its capacity to treat the sewage generated within Bitou was done earlier in the year and the full report on the findings is attached as an Annexure to this report on our website.

The main findings of the report are summarised below:

  1. The frequency with which data is collected on the influent and effluent is more than required by the Department of Water and Sanitation which is commendable.  However, the data is very variable, probably because the sampling is done by hand.  If the data is to be optimised and made more meaningful two automatic samplers will have to be purchased. It is important that this be done as soon as possible to ensure that when a consultant is appointed to design the upgrading and extension of theplant they will know what the incoming load is so that they can design accordingly.
  2. The data does indicate that the plant is reaching full capacity during the peak festive season and planning should begin now to upgrade itover the next 4 to 6 years.  This process should start with the appointment of a consultant.
  3. Thecondition of the mechanical and electrical equipment must be assessed so planned plant redundancy can be practised.
  4. The facilities for the treatment and disposal of the waste biosolids on the plant need to be upgraded.

The following management plans are currently being considered by the Council.

  1. The Water Services Development Plan
  2. WaterMaster Plan

The wastewater collection, treatment and disposal infrastructure is currently well managed and operates satisfactorily.  However as with all infrastructure it must be maintained and replaced when it is reaching the end of its life.  The rule of thumb for facilities of this nature is that approximately 8% of the capital value of the infrastructure should be spent every year on maintenance and replacing aging equipment.  This target is currently not being met in Bitou and unless serious attention is paid to this aspect the infrastructure will fail and we will find ourselves in the same position as most of the towns in the country.

In this regard the list below presents the most pressing identified needs not covered by the current budget proposals.

  1. Automatic samplers for theGansevlei WWTW
  2. Planning for the upgrading of theGansevlei WWTW
  3. MCC board upgrades on theGansevlei WWTW
  4. Upgrading of sewers in theKwanokuthula, Wittedrif and Kurland areas.
  5. Replacement of thePiesang Valley and Kwanokuthula rising mains.
  6. Planning of a new pump station servingPiesang