Desperate residents 'drinking sewage water' as taps run dry

A trough of water meant for cows currently being used by people for water supply in Senekal. (Photo: Ray de Vries)
A trough of water meant for cows currently being used by people for water supply in Senekal. (Photo: Ray de Vries)

Durban – While parts of the country are battling minimal water supply as the drought crisis worsens – the community of Senekal, in the Free State, has reached desperate levels, with no water supply in the area for weeks.

The situation has become so dire, that reports of people drinking sewage water have emerged, with many in townships bearing the brunt of bone-dry taps.

Speaking to News24 on Monday, Air from Water owner Ray de Vries said he had witnessed the negative effects of the drought first-hand.

"I got in touch with Water Shortage South Africa after hearing about a farmer who had committed suicide. I, thereafter, began visiting Senekal and what I saw was dire. People have drunk raw sewage.

"I have also seen people fight over water. Driving in, one can see dead cow and ostriches. There are even people chasing cows away from drinking water so they can have the cow's supply. It is a sad situation and there needs to be more exposure and help for these people."

Attempts to assist

Co-founder for Water Shortage South Africa, Gerhard le Roux from Mossel Bay, said he and co-founder Sue Wolmarans had initiated a project to assist supply of water for desperate residents.

“We basically appealed to people going inland from the coast to please bring back bottles of still water for drinking or even tap water.

“We created drop-off points, and people began responding to us. We just try to help as much as we can. Why there is a shortage is not our concern. We are simply trying to get as much water as we can to as many people as we can. We help old age homes, hospitals, places of that nature.

"There have been many people that have since offered assistance and we are extremely grateful. There is even one person who wants to donate three tons of water. Logistics are just an issue for us at the moment."

Le Roux added that the lack of water was becoming worse, with boreholes and taps "absolutely dry".

"The other day, 2 000 litres of water we collected was finished in one weekend. There is a massive demand. We just hope to help as many people as we can."

Community coming together

Senekal community leader Theo Oosthuizen said the area had seen "devastating drought conditions".

"Things are not easy at all and our people need help. As a community, we have come together with businesses and other stakeholders to provide Jojo tanks to townships, because even the boreholes that some farmers use have gone dry. The tanks are being filled once a day."

At the time of going to press, the Setsoto Municipality, who are responsible for the Senekal area, had not responded to queries on the drought. 


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