Port Alfred’s main water supply, the Sarel Hayward Dam, is far lower than the municipality has said, according to the Port Alfred Residents and Ratepayers Association (Parra).
Parra chairman Dawie van Wyk has been raising concerns about dam levels for the past few weeks, and last week sent an updated report to the municipality estimating the dam was as low as it was in March, when the municipality said it was only 6% full.
Van Wyk supported his claim with photographs of the dam measuring tower, showing what the dam level was at different stages over the past two years.
Since the Ndlambe Covid-19 Joint Operations Committee (JOC) was formed to channel information about coronavirus cases and health precautions in Ndlambe, it has also been providing updates on dam levels.
A statement issued by the JOC on behalf of mayor Khululwa Ncamiso on July 21 said the Sarel Hayward Dam was 50% full. Subsequent statements from the JOC said the dam level had dropped from 50% to 37% over 21 days.
But Van Wyk disputed this.
“It is evident from photos taken on August 17 that the level of Sarel Hayward Dam is the same as it was when pictures were taken on March 5 2020 when it was reported that the dam was at 6%,” he said.
In a letter to the municipality two weeks ago, Van Wyk wrote: “Port Alfred cannot survive without water from this main source. It is absolutely essential that the municipality get the services of a competent water engineer to accurately establish the level of the Sarel Hayward dam immediately. If it is at 10% urgent interventions are needed to pump water continuously from Waters Meeting into the Sarel Hayward Dam.”
In his latest update, he said: There is still water above the weir at Waters Meeting and Ndlambe should immediately declare an emergency and put in a dedicated pump to pump this water directly into the Sarel Hayward Dam. Priority must be given to obtain electricity from Eskom (by opening a new account) and getting the Central Belt boreholes to pump water into the Sarel Hayward Dam. These suggestions were made at the JOC water crises meetings but were ignored. Residents need to be informed and advised to use water sparingly.”
In response to TotT’s questions, municipal spokesperson Cecil Mbolekwa said the municipality had installed a telemetry system at Sarel Hayward Dam but was still trying to establish accurate levels based on the dam design volumes.
“After we received some rain in early March 2020, the municipality has been pumping water from Kowie River weir to Sarel Hayward Dam and directly to the balancing dam, hence there was [an] increase in dam Levels at Sarel Hayward Dam,” he said.
He said the municipality was currently pumping water from Sarel Hayward to the balancing dam, which also led to drop in dam levels at Sarel Hayward.
“The issue of disputes in estimated levels given will be finalised once the calibration of the telemetry is concluded by the service provider.
“The water levels at the dam are still a concern as the dam is the main source and nothing [is] coming from the Kowie River weir. [We are] hoping that rain will ultimately come through to save the municipality from the crisis,” Mbolekwa said.
“What is positive for now is that all areas are getting water, as much as we have some challenges in high laying areas sometimes.”