Water restrictions continue in Queenstown despite full dams

Despite nearby dams that are at more than 80% full at the moment, Bonkolo Dam is at 10%. Photo supplied by the Chris Hani District Municipality

Despite the recent statistics about dam levels in the area, the Chris Hani District Municipality says that Bonkolo dam is at 10% and this is the reason for water cut-offs in Queenstown. Recent dam statistics from the Department of Water and Sanitation state that Waterdown dam which is about 33km from Queenstown and Xonxa dam which is 22km away are at 83,4% and 100,9% respectively.

Queenstown, South Africa

Close to ten locations in Queenstown are experiencing a water crisis. Taps have been running dry at night since last year while water is supplied for only three hours during the day.

According to Chris Hani District Municipality spokesperson, Thobeka Mqamelo, the Queenstown area is in a drought with its main source of water, Bonkolo dam, hovering at 10% capacity despite recent rains.

Mqamelo said that since January 2016 the municipality has instituted water restrictions. “Water supply is cut from 8pm to 4am to allow for our reservoirs to fill up as water demand compels the reservoirs to stay at almost empty levels all the time if this measure is not effected.

“However, during the day reservoir levels quickly decrease due to high water usage and as soon as the pressure becomes low, high lying areas are affected,” she said.

Areas that are always affected include Sabatha Dalindyebo, Ezibeleni, kwaThemba, Mabuyaze, Mlungisi, Nomzamo, Magxaki , Top Town, Blue Rise and many others.

Elitsha visited Sabatha Dalindyebo and Ezibeleni location to see how residents are surviving the shortage of water.

Residents in Sabatha Dalindyebo said that the Chris Hani District Municipality only supplies them with water three hours a day.

They said they only get water in the morning at 5am for an hour, then in the afternoon from 5 to 7pm. The supply is otherwise off.

Community member, Thembakazi Yiweni said that at night she avoids using flushing the toilet because of the lack of water.

“If you missed the three hours of water you must know that you will sleep without water on that day,” she said.

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Yiweni said she uses 20-litre buckets to collect water but this not always enough because her family is big and there are children who use water everyday when they go to school.

“This is frustrating because every day I have to make sure that I’m up starting from 4am to 5am so that I won’t miss water,” she said.

Yiweni said this has been happening since last year and residents don’t know why the water crisis is not fixed.  “The sad part is that it’s been raining for months but we don’t know what is happening, why we do not have water.”

Community leader Moshekile Fani from Sabatha Dalindyebo said what stresses them as community members is that there is no explanation from the district municipality about the lack of water.

“We recently had a shack fire and we had to use sand to fight the fire because there was no water. By the time firefighters arrived it was already too late. A man died in that fire,” said Fani.

He said community members have lost hope of ever having water.

“This has been happening for a very long time now. During the day there’s no water and at night there is no water,” said Fani.

Ziyanda Tsoko from Ezibeleni locations said that in her area they only get water in the early hours of the morning.

She has to wake up early to pour the water she will use for the day because after 6pm when she returns from work there will be no water. “If you missed that hour in the morning then it is hard luck for you,” she said.

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Mqamelo said that the district is regulating the water supply so that every area can receive some water at least a few hours a day. They close the water to low-lying areas to supply the higher areas, then the reverse to ensure the lower areas can benefit.

She said the district is working hard to fight the shortage of water.

“We are hoping to resolve the Queenstown water problems with the completion of the multimillion [rand] six-phase Xonxa Dam transfer water scheme, due for completion by the end of April. This will ensure a consistent supply of water to Queenstown,” she said.

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