Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dying for water in Brits: Protestors' blood flows again !..... Water expert was suspended in 2010 (CSIR / Dr Anthony Turton)


South Africa is a country located at the Southern Tip of Africa. About twice the size of Texas it is home to 49 million people. This country has been stricken by affects from the long standing apartheid to the devastation that diseases such as HIV/AIDS and TB have caused. Now another crisis looms in the distance: Water. As more and more people migrate into cities from rural villages the pressure for the city to meet the water demands is ever increasing.

There are many reasons that attribute to this growing water crisis in South Africa. Climate change has affected water supplies within the region. Rains that usually come and supply the country's water has come infrequently. For example in Durban the Dams are 20 percent lower than at the start of 2010. Due to this fact cities are looking to impose water restrictions on communities.
Another problem that Durban in particular faces is stolen water. According to one report 35 percent of the cities water is stolen or given out through illegal connections.

Also, preventative measures that were put in place such as the construction of dams in the area have not even started or are still in the process of being built and those structures that are in place now are slowly collapsing.
Those in rural areas still lack access to water. One report stated that in 2008 about 5 million people lack access to water and 15 million lack access to basic sanitation. This number has improved greatly since the end of apartheid in 1994, however these numbers are still too high and not one person should ever lack access to the most basic necessity of life, which is water.

Interestingly enough South Africa boast one of the most clean water systems in the world, however due to the lack of sanitation and access in the country's rural communities the threat of water borne disease is steadily increasing. The Vaal River, the largest river in South Africa and popular tourist destination is becoming increasingly contaminated with fecal material due to the lack of sanitation supplies.
It is so bad that the local water agency Rand Water issued a statement that contact with the river may lead to serious infection. Wildlife is also being affected from the raw sewage run off. A court-ordered mandate was issued to remove 20 tons of dead fish from the river after a local NGO SAVE (Save the Vaal River Environment) took the Emfuelni munincipilty to court for leaking raw sewage into the river. They blamed the reason for dumping sewage in the river on old pipes.

Overall, infrastructure is lacking, whether or not it is old pipes or ignorance the South Africa water crisis is here and affecting millions. There has been a backlog in services since the end of apartheid and that needs to change.
The national and local governments of South Africa need to do a better job of offering services to their people. Supplies need to be given to those most in need. By taking care of the rural population the government will be helping the cities, because it is these rural communities where the damage to the water supply is beginning due to lack of access to sanitation supplies and clean water education. ( )

Water expert suspended (CSIR / Dr Anthony Turton)
Published on: May 24, 2010 South Africa Environmental Issues & News 5 comments

Powered by Translate
By Sheree B├ęga

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has suspended a leading water researcher over a presentation he was to deliver about South Africa’s water crisis this week.

The council executive of the CSIR on Friday suspended Dr Anthony Turton, an acclaimed political scientist, with immediate effect, charging him with insubordination and bringing the CSIR into disrepute.

His keynote address, A Clean South Africa, was to be presented at the CSIR’s “Science Real and Relevant” conference in Pretoria this week, but he was forbidden from delivering it because it contained “unsubstantiated” facts, according to the executive, as well as photographs of this year’s xenophobic attacks, which, the executive added, “may disturb people”.

In his presentation, Turton was to have said that South Africa had run out of surplus water, with 98 percent of it already allocated. And because most rivers and dams were highly polluted, they had lost the ability to dilute effluents.

Poor water quality was threatening economic growth, he added. The pollution ranges from acidic mine pollution from coal and gold mining, levels of eutrophication [characterised by an abundant accumulation of nutrients that support a dense growth of algae and other organisms, the decay of which depletes the shallow waters of oxygen in summer] “unprecedented globally” in rivers and dams, and radio-nuclide and heavy-metal contamination from a century of largely unregulated gold mining that had left residents of Soweto, Ekurhuleni and the West Rand living on “contaminated land”.

Turton said the government needed to accept that the development targets of the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for SA were simply unobtainable, or radically rethink how to mobilise the country’s science, engineering and technological capacity.

“If we accept the former option, we can say social instability will grow and SA will slide into anarchy. The xenophobic violence is a taste of things to come if we follow this trajectory… Do we wish to avert the water crisis now before it happens or are we to be content with the status quo, happy to deal with it after it has been thrust upon us like the electricity crisis was?”

CSIR spokesperson Hilda van Rooyen said an internal investigation was under way.


Anthony Turton – Let the future have water
Published on: February 28, 2011 Acid Mine Drainage AMD

Powered by Translate

By Anthony Turton (

The Big Read: The phrase “acid mine drainage” (AMD) has been bouncing around in the media for months. It is caused by disused mine workings being flooded, which brings water into contact with the pyrite base of the ore body. Bacteria attack the pyrite, a sulphide compound, releasing sulphate and, through a complex chemical reaction, oxygen.
The oxygen feeds back into the process, making it a self-sustaining reaction, much like fire feeds off fresh air.
The resulting product is a toxic cocktail of heavy metals, including arsenic and uranium, all dissolved in this highly acidic stream of water known as AMD.

This is clearly not a good thing, because the volumes are substantial and the toxic loads are high. AMD from Witwatersrand gold mines is also radioactive.

Is this good news for the South African economy? Clearly not when you consider that the water decanting from the Witwatersrand mining basin will contribute about 5% of the flow volume of the Vaal River and will increase the load of toxic salts in the river by 20%.

The increased salinity of the water will eventually destroy all agriculture downstream of where the salts enter the river.

But the way you frame the question dictates the answer you get, so let’s be clever and redefine the problem.

The general problem we face as a nation is that we have run out of water for economic growth. We have managed water scarcity in the past by building dams, but our losses to evaporation are massive. In the Orange and Limpopo river basins, two of our most important at the national level, we lose 95% of the rainfall to evapo-transpiration (evaporation off the dam and transpiration of water through vegetation). If we can reduce evaporation, even by only 5%, then, in effect, we would double the volume of water we have available for economic development.

This is where the AMD debate becomes interesting, because under the Witwatersrand mining basin is a void stretching from Springs to Randfontein that has a combined volume equivalent to five times that of Lake Kariba. But the really good news is that, if we chose to store water there, it would not be subject to evaporative losses.

This is amazing because it does two very important things for us as a nation.

Firstly, it gives us hope for the future by growing our national economy in a way that ensures social stability. Secondly, it helps the embattled gold mining industry to solve its environmental remediation problems.

Recent work by Chris Hartnady, a respected geologist, indicates that the gold reserves left in the ground are less than the environmental liability, which means that, if the mining companies have to pay for remediation, then in effect they will go out of business.

So let us apply our minds to this new solution. Let us stop bickering over who is liable for environmental remediation of the AMD spill that will hit Johannesburg in January 2012 and let us instead collectively start to think about how to use the mine void for strategic storage that benefits the whole country.

Strategic storage of this magnitude, without evaporation, means we will have masses of water for future use. More important, we do not need to actually use that water, because it will be a strategic reserve for use only in emergencies. This will mean that existing dam operating rules can be changed.

At present, we manage our dams to keep them as full as possible, which has the unintended consequence of increasing evaporative losses from them. We can then draw the dams down to lower levels, reducing evaporative loss, but also creating more economic activity and thus prosperity, secure in the knowledge that, when drought hits us, we have a strategic reserve five times the volume of Lake Kariba.

This also means that we can optimise our water resources at the national level, and not just at the sectoral level, which in turn means more benefits to more people, but importantly also a larger pool from which to cover costs.

This optimisation at a level above that of the mining sector alone will mean that we can afford the very best technology, reverse osmosis and ion exchange, which produces the purest water.

So if we ever need to drink this AMD, we can do so in full confidence that it will be safe.

South Africa is going through a transition from an extractive economy, in which costs of production were externalised onto society, to a new beneficiation economy, in which full life-cycle costing will be the norm, with benefits accruing to a wider segment of society.

This is being smart! All it needs is a new collective vision, supported by leadership with integrity, and the South African nation can face the challenge of AMD with confidence.

Turton is vice-president of the International Water Resource Association. This is the first of a three-part series


Dying for water in Brits: Protestors' blood flows again


Ficksburg. Marikana. Robertson. Cato Crest. Very different South African places, many miles apart, which have all seen citizens who were demonstrating for an improvement in their living conditions killed by South African police over the past three years. To that shameful list it appears that we can now add Brits, in the North West province, where at least two people were killed, and at least two more wounded, during a protest about water shortages on Monday.
It is rumoured that one of the dead may have been a freelance photographer. By REBECCA DAVIS & THAPELO LEKGOWA.

Two photographs, taken by community members and passed to the Daily Maverick, tell the story of what happened near Brits on Monday more starkly than any words could hope to. Two motionless bodies, lying on the ground. One photo shows a man in a blue shirt, with blood pooling on his face from what appears to be a shot to the eye. His head rests on a green hat, stained with blood. In the second photo, a man wearing a white vest lies, his arms wide apart. There are splatters of blood on his face, vest and arms.

These two men were shot dead, apparently by police, while residents of Madibeng municipality were protesting about the fact that they had been deprived of water for almost a week. Currently, few details of what transpired between police and protestors have been established. What is clear, however, is that the municipality has been a ticking time-bomb for some years in terms of the shocking quality of service delivery meted out to its poorest residents.

The municipality of Madibeng lies just 50km from Pretoria and Johannesburg, and is home to the towns and townships of Brits, Hartebeespoort, Letlhabile, Damondsville, Mothotlung, and Oukasie. When Madibeng has made news over the past few years, it has invariably been for the wrong reasons. In March 2010, the Madibeng municipality was placed under administration after an audit exposed financial mismanagement to the tune of R100 million. In June 2011, newspapers exposed the fact that the new executive mayor was renting a BMW at the cost of R2,025 per day. In April last year, it was reported that R1 billion of assets, supposedly owned by the municipality, were missing.

But one of Madibeng’s most intractable and frustrating problems in recent years has been the erratic supply of water to its residents. A peek at the municipality’s Facebook page reveals that from the time the account was set up, in late 2012, the municipality has had to post almost monthly updates regarding either a shortage of water, or the provision of polluted water. In November last year, residents blockaded roads in anger at being deprived of water for an extended period. Local pastor Joel Chauke described it to the SABC as a “very serious condition”, saying that people “have to depend on water dropped by the trucks which are not clean at all”.

The Madibeng municipality has consistently blamed their water problems on “capacity constraints”, and the poor quality of the water on the algae at its source in the Hartebeespoort Dam. DA ward councillors, meanwhile, have consistently maintained that the problems come down to a lack of maintenance, and poor management, at the Brits water purification plant and other facilities.

Locals have clearly lost patience with the municipality’s excuses. “9 days without water,” one resident wrote on the Madibeng Facebook page on 18 December 2013. “What should we drink, cook or do laundry with?” Last Friday, January 10th, the municipality posted a statement announcing that a “mechanical problem experience” was affecting water delivery but that they “cannot estimate when the problem will be resolved”. Responses included: “Madibeng doesn’t deserve our vote”; “Vote EFF for a change”; and the simple “Fuck u Madibeng”.

“This situation has been simmering for some time,” DA Ward 23 Councillor Eddie Barlow told the Daily Maverick on Monday. “I wrote an article a while back saying that I think Madibeng has got to the point of no return.” Barlow said he had established firsthand on Monday morning that the water shortage on this occasion appeared to be due to a broken pump. “There is no standby pump, due to a lack of maintenance, a lack of planning, a lack of management. If the municipality did their work properly they would have a standby pump.” The Madibeng municipality, meanwhile, told SAFM that the water shortages were as a result of the theft of pipes.

Madibeng Head of Communications Lebogang Tsogang informed the Daily Maverick that water-related protests had begun last Friday, after about a week without water, although it was only on Sunday that the protests began to gather momentum, with residents of the township of Mothotlung moving towards Brits. On Monday, a road near Brits was barricaded with burning tyres and rocks – “like an obstacle course,” Barlow said.

Another DA councillor, Leon Basson, told the Mail & Guardian that protestors were on their way to the municipal offices when “something went wrong…and the police opened fire.” Barlow told the Daily Maverick that by the time he arrived on the scene, “two bodies were lying under cover of silver blankets”.

Early reports suggested that one of the men shot and killed was a freelance photographer – a local who occasionally covered news events. SAPS Colonel Sabata Mokgobane told the Daily Maverick that this was yet to be confirmed. When the Daily Maverick called Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) spokesperson Moses Dlamini, he said that all details remained sketchy, as the scene was still being investigated. He was also unable to say whether the men had been shot with rubber bullets or live ammunition.

Judging by the murky history of SAPS’ protest management, either rubber bullets or live ammunition might have been used on the protestors. Rubber bullets killed Andries Tatane in 2011; live ammunition mowed down the miners at Marikana in 2012. It was reported that in late 2011, Lieutenant General Elias Mawela handed down a directive that rubber bullets and shotguns were no longer to be used on protestors due to concerns about injuries.

Last November, however, when the DA complained that Gauteng police were still using rubber bullets to disperse crowds, SAPS spokesperson Solomon Makgale said that a “revised instruction” did allow for the use of rubber bullets by members of the public order policing unit under the instruction of the commander at the scene.

The Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) warned Parliament back in June 2011 that there had been an increase in police brutality at service delivery protests, but that it was difficult to identify the police officers responsible because they wore riot masks and because rubber bullets – unlike live ammunition – could not be traced back to individual weapons. IPID has a maximum of 90 days to complete inquiries into each case.

The residents of Mothotlung have reportedly vowed to keep up their protest action until their situation is resolved. Water, in this case, may be thicker than blood. Will the ANC take heed? DM

Read more:

Two people killed in protest near Brits in Mail & Guardian.

Photographs by the members of Mothloung community.


Bloem water shortages - Mangaung statement
16:41 (GMT+2), Sun, 26 January 2014
Bloem water shortages - Mangaung statement

On Thursday 16 January 2014, the unfortunate breakdown occurred to the old pumps of Masselspoort water purification plant in Bloemfontein which supplies the northern surbubs of Bloemfontein and emergency measures were put in place to ensure continues supply. We can also confirmed that the extreme drought associated with heat waves increased the demand from the city to record levels.

This created a problem with properties in the higher lying areas, especially the double and three storey houses. The municipality continuously tried to fill the reservoir to the top level to increase pressure.

The water supply was fully restored on Monday 20 January 2014 and all areas which were affected by the breakdown of the raw water pump in Maselspoort are now receiving water.

On Friday 24 January the City experienced yet another raw water challenge where the sluze gates at Monckesdam were blocked by debris, tree branches and mud. The dam level at Monckesdam is at all time low due to draught and the heat waves that the city experiencing.

We are currently in the process of upgrading our water infrastructure paying more attention on the old pump systems at Maselspoort. The contract was awarded to Veolia Water for R 55,905 million (excluding VAT) following the tender process.

The contract commenced on the 19th August last year. The large pumps are in the process of manufacturing and project completion is scheduled for December 2014. Some of these large pumps are manufactured in Sweden. These new pumps with a much higher efficiency will increase the delivery of the raw water abstraction and delivery of potable water to Bloemfontein from Maselspoort.

The following refurbishment upgrades are in process:

1. Refurbishment and Upgrading of pump supply systems- Mechanical and electrical Contractual Completion – 22 October 2014
2. Refurbishment of Pump Building - Civil Contractual Completion - 21 May 2015
3. Process upgrade to improve water quality (In Preliminary design phase - 25 Feb 2014 Completion)

No comments:

Post a Comment