Fixing a 15-year water crisis in Noupoort, a small town in the Northern Cape, will cost the municipality close to R100 million, and a new water system will take engineers two years to build. This is the view of mayor Mzwandile Toto of the Umsobomvu Municipality.
For farmers and Noupoort residents it has been, and will continue to be, a daily struggle of water shedding. The community has had to rely on borehole water for years, but Toto says almost half of the boreholes in the municipality have run dry.
Farmers say water is only made available overnight from 17:00 until 09:00 the following morning. Thereafter, they are on their own. Some days are worse than others, however.
Zingiwe Mlenzana, a resident in town, says they had no water at all for the entire day of 3 November 2021. “We have been without water since then and we don’t even know when it is going to come back,” Mlenzana explains.
Farmers losing livestock
Farmers in the area have been forced to adapt. To deal with groundwater shortages, livestock farmer Vuyo Nkobongo, who has been farming at Hartebeest 1 for over 30 years, has to move his livestock off his farm to the township occasionally to provide them with water .
“Our livestock are dying in numbers on a yearly basis because they get stuck in the mud and starve to death while trying to access water. As a result, we have had to move them to the township so that they can get access to water.”
Still, it doesn’t solve the problem entirely as water rationing remains in places across the municipality. Last week, three cows succumbed to dehydration.
Nkobongo himself currently has no water whatsoever on the farm. “We are struggling daily because we are forced to take several trips to our townships to collect water or visit other nearby farms to ask for water.
“Our municipality does not assist us in anyway and they don’t explain to us why we have a water crisis in the town. Yet, there are several boreholes – in the town and where we farm – which they are not utilising. They have even closed a borehole that supplies water to our dam,” he says.
Only a few boreholes operational
Another farmer, Fikile Maliti, has also lost livestock due to dehydration and starvation. His cows were trying to access drinking water at a nearby dam but with the dams being empty and muddy, they got stuck.
“The water shortage issues in Noupoort have inconvenienced us as farmers and I don’t even remember when it started. It has been a long time. When we raise it with the municipality, they tell us that the water crisis is caused by cable theft because the borehole systems need electricity to generate water.
“But it doesn’t make sense because cable theft only started becoming an issue this year and we have had water challenges for years,” he says.
Boreholes running dry
The crux of the problem is that only seven of the municipality’s 13 borehole systems are operational. The remaining six, mayor Toto says, are dry.
Getting the town’s water woes cleared up has been impossible to date. Toto tells Food For Mzansi, “If national government supplies us with a budget of close to R100 million it may take us up to two years to fix the water crisis.”
Exacerbating the situation, Toto adds, is the fact that the seven operational boreholes do not supply sufficient water to sustain the town for a 24-hour cycle. As a result, the water supply is constantly cut.
Toto says multiple requests from his office to national government to connect the town’s pipelines to the Colesberg water system have fallen on deaf ears.
“We spoke to the national government and I did write to the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs and even the minister of water and sanitation, Senzo Mchunu.
“But we have not received any positive response or commitment from their side about assisting us and we need their assistance because, as a municipality, we don’t have that type of budget to fix our water crisis.”
Sign up for Mzansi Today: Your daily take on the news and happenings from the agriculture value chain.