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Power outages havoc on water supply

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Recent load-shedding has adversely impacted the water supply in certain Helderberg areas.
Recent load-shedding has adversely impacted the water supply in certain Helderberg areas.

Daily load-shedding has resulted in interrupted water supply for residents in parts of Somerset West, Sir Lowry’s Pass and Gordon’s Bay, some of whom were without water for up to seven days last week.

The situation was aggravated by Eskom’s implementation of stage 5 and 6 load-shedding or four-hour slots of interrupted power supply – resulting in the incapacity of pump stations to operate optimally in pumping water to reservoirs that supply higher-lying areas in Somerset West and Sir Lowry’s Pass.

As a precautionary measure, the City of Cape Town’s Water and Sanitation Directorate urged residents to use less water. “This will help maintain the supply during prolonged high stages of load-shedding, which is affecting water supply operations,” a City statement said.

High-lying or mountainous areas that rely on water-pumping stations are at more immediate risk of low or no water pressure at high stages of load-shedding.

Siseko Mbandezi, acting Mayoral Committee member for Water and Sanitation, said the challenge is that reservoirs cannot fill-up quickly enough.

“Using less water will help deal with operational challenges, notably due to heavy load-shedding, which are impacting on our water treatment plants and ability to convey good quality drinking water to reservoirs and areas across Cape Town, especially to high-lying areas where the water has to be pumped [to],” he said.

Ward 85 councillor Gregory Peck confirmed generators were installed at reservoirs and pump stations in Somerset West to address the issue, which appeared to be mostly resolved this week – thanks also to the implementation of lower stages of load-shedding.

“We apologise to residents who have been without water for a week,” he said. “We really appreciate their patience and understanding of this situation.”

The City has also approved a seven-fold budget increase to upgrade pump stations and boost protection from load-shedding as well as illegal dumping into the sewer system.

A statement from the municipality confirmed big capital budget increases for sewer pump stations are prioritised for water and sanitation – from R70 million in 2022, ramping up to R400 million in 2024, and R500 million in 2025.

By June, the City plans to have installed permanent generators at 110 priority sewer pump stations requiring generation capacity, with around 30 more ear-marked for installations.

All 26 wastewater-treatment plants already have permanent generators. The City has also installed early-warning telemetric alarm systems at all 487 sewer pump stations to help detect faults.

Among rapidly scaled-up budgets, more than R100 million annually will go to generators and electrical maintenance to protect against load-shedding, screens to protect against foreign items in sewers, and security measures to combat ongoing theft and vandalism of critical infrastructure.

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