5-day water disruption in Clanwilliam after malfunction

River water. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)
River water. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

Western Cape - Water losses at a severed section of a canal that transports water from the Clanwilliam Dam to surrounding farms are being staunched by a temporary steel structure after an electronic malfunction disrupted supply in the area for five days.

About 45 000 residents and 15 000ha of irrigation experienced the disruption between Tuesday and Saturday.

The water only reached the lower end of the canal system on Tuesday due to the distance the water had to be carried via the system, MEC for economic opportunities Alan Winde said on Wednesday.

"The section of the canal broke due to an electronic malfunctioning of the telemetry system which controls the water level in the canal. This resulted in an overflow at the concrete canal section which washed away the soil supporting the canal lining," he explained.

"A temporary steel structure was installed to replace the broken canal lining. This temporary structure will be replaced by concrete lining during the annual maintenance period in winter."

The maintenance and management of the infrastructure falls under the Lower Olifants River Water Users Association (Lorwua), according to the National Water Act.

READ: More fires expected in Western Cape as drought worsens

Maintenance plan

"Lorwua and the contractor they appointed, Namakwa Engineering, took swift action under a high-pressure situation. They worked tirelessly, 24-hours a day, until the water supply was restored," Winde said.

He said the provincial department of agriculture was halfway through a R4m proactive maintenance plan on the Clanwilliam Dam canal system.

"Three specific stretches of canal were identified as critical due to the aging of the infrastructure, with some being more than 80 years old. Pro-active maintenance is being carried out on these sections over a three year period. Due to prompt action, the economic impact of the damage was lessened, and we've been able to avoid any serious loss of revenue or jobs, or damage to crops."

On Monday, dams in the province were at an average of 39.40%, compared to last year's 48.48%.

Cape Town's combined system dams are currently at 39.90%, compared to 50.36% during the same period in 2016.

The Berg River catchment is at 46.81% compared to last year's 47.01%; the Breede River catchment is at 38.16% while it was at 48.56% last year; the Gouritz River catchment is at 25.75%, half of last year's 52.48%; the Olifants/ Doorn River catchment is at 54.20% compared to last year's 44.20%.

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