Tackling water availability

Port Alfred’s water situation shows no signs of improving yet, although we are a few days away from the first phase seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) plant going online, according to the last update sent by the municipality.

Water supply has been sporadic on Port Alfred’s west bank, but has remained the same for residents in the high lying areas of both east and west banks, who have received no water at all for the past six months.

Residents began complaining months ago about the unfairness, some might say morality, of the municipality to continue charging a water availability fee on their account every month. The monthly amount, R106.69, might be a drop in the bucket to some, but for others that R100 could put more food on the table or go towards buying water from the shop.

Aside from gripes on social media, we knew of no formal requests to the municipality to suspend that charge during the water crisis, and to give credit to ratepayers who have gone without water for months on end.

But then, last week, the DA took up the cause and submitted a motion to council that the water availability charge be scrapped until SANS 241 quality water is consistently supplied. Good for the DA, but it seems a bit of an 11th hour attempt to appeal to ratepayers, especially if we start receiving water from the SWRO plant in the next few days.

That is a big “if”, as this plant has been delayed several times before. So maybe the DA motion still has merit.

The DA is correct that Ndlambe Municipality has been unable to ensure a consistent, quality water supply to residents, especially in the Bathurst and Port Alfred areas.

Pertinent too is that the Constitution of South Africa guarantees all residents the right of access to sufficient water. Some pay for it, others do not. But the municipality is obligated to provide it. It has failed in this obligation.

At the very least, the municipality can give all ratepayers in affected areas a credit for the past six months of paying that water availability charge. That amounts to a R640.14 credit on their accounts. Do it, Ndlambe, it is the right thing to do.

It is a credit that will be most welcome when we find out how much the water from our new RO plant is going to cost us. Some estimates are it could be as much as five times what we pay for municipal water now. And will it be worth it?

– Jon Houzet

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