Wonderful rain

Downpour in catchment area reaches the Kowie weir

JON HOUZET and SID PENNEY

After significant rain fell in the Kowie River’s catchment area in Makhanda on the first weekend of December, Port Alfred residents were overjoyed to hear the water was finally flowing over the weir at Waters Meeting for the first time in months.

Members of the Port Alfred and Nemato Infrastructure Concerns (Panic) quickly wanted to establish if Ndlambe Municipality’s pumps were working and they were pumping water.

Several unconfirmed messages came through that this was indeed the case, but it was not clear if the pumps were pumping only to the water treatment works in Nemato, or also to the Sarel Hayward Dam, which had been empty for months.

Since late June, Port Alfred has been relying on water being produced by the QFS reverse osmosis plant, but even when it has been able to produce 2ML/day as per the contract, it is barely a third of Port Alfred’s daily demand.

Panic spokesperson Johan van Zyl said: “I have spoken to some people in the know, who say the pumps [at the weir] have capacity to pump more than the required 5ML/day, and divert the extra water to Sarel Hayward dam. That is if the river is flowing strongly enough to pump such a volume for an extended period of time.”

Later, municipal spokesperson Cecil Mbolekwa confirmed: “We are pumping to both the dam and the weir, all our pumps are working.”

On Wednesday December 8 TotT received an alert that the pipeline between the Sarel Hayward Dam and the balancing dam had been vandalised, but that repairs had taken place and the pumping of water should have commenced.

The same message said all was going well at the water treatment works and distribution to residents should start the same day [Wednesday].

In response to TotT’s query about this, Mbolekwa said: “Everything has been fixed, even air valves that were vandalised have been fixed.”

Meanwhile, between 40mm and 55mm of rain was recorded in various parts of Makhanda (Grahamstown) in the space of just two hours on the afternoon of Sunday December 5, TotT correspondent Sid Penney reported.

There were reports that the Settlers Dam and Howiesonspoort Dam catchment areas recorded generous downpours in the same period.

On the R67 road between Stones Hill outside Makhanda and Manley Flats, a number of trees were uprooted and fell onto or beside the road, causing traffic delays and hazards.

In Makhanda itself, flooding occurred in various parts of the city, with residents and business people mopping up as leaks prevailed. At a supermarket on the north-western edge of the CBD, staff were seen sweeping water out of the store.

In the newly-tarred Somerset Street between New and African streets, vehicles had to negotiate large pools of water reaching hub cap height. A resident nearby said gutters and pipes had been blocked by empty one-litre cooldrink bottles, and he had personally removed several of them to ensure a free-flow.

Ditches and streams criss-cross Makhanda, and these were flowing exceptionally strongly at the time of the storm and afterwards. To the dismay of local residents the waters carried a large amount of plastics, cardboard and other forms of litter.

These streams eventually reach what is known as the Kowie Ditch on the northern side of Belmont Valley, and leads all the way, via streams and rivers, to the coast.

In Port Alfred itself, local rain guru Eldred Bradfield recorded 40ml of rain over the weekend. He said 161mm of rain had fallen in Port Alfred in November, and 607mm so far this year. Last year he recorded a total of 700mm for the year.