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Mechanical fault caused water loss
14th February, 2006

THE open sluice gates at Roodefontein Dam that allowed tons of water to escape in drought-ridden Plettenberg Bay is to be blamed on a mechanical and not managerial fault, according to a report to water affairs and forestry on the water crisis.

Department regional director Rashid Khan, who yesterday received the report he had requested, said a lack of summer rainfall was the overarching reason for “almost drought conditions” and the drop in the dam’s level to below 5 per cent.

Furthermore an open pressure sustaining valve allowed water to overflow into the Piesang River.

“There was a minor issue of a valve not functioning. It was a mechanical fault. It wasn’t a case of oversight or any one person being incompetent,” Khan said in response to damaging news reports.

Local ratepayers blamed the drop in water levels on mismanagement of the water system at Bitou municipality.

Said Khan: “Golfers around the Piesang River informed municipal officials . . . and the valve was closed immediately. The estimated water loss is about 1 000m³. This amount is not significant and would thus have no effect on the water situation in the area. “Therefore, the allegation that the dam is mismanaged and that the sluice gate was accidentally left open is not founded.”

Khan said his department would request a follow-up report from the municipality in the form of a “good drought management plan with contingency measures”.

Bitou municipality receives its water from the Keurbooms River and the Roodefontein Dam in the Piesang River.

Khan said yesterday no water was being extracted from the dam, which has a storage capacity of about 2 million m³.

The available water is used by the Jakkalsfontein community for irrigation purposes whose average daily water requirements is about 8Ml.

“The pipeline from the Keurbooms River used to transport raw water to the purification plant has a capacity of 7Ml per day. Insufficient water in the dam creates an imbalance in the supply equation, leaving the municipality with no other option but to restrict water users in this area,” he said.

For this reason the Bitou municipality is increasing the capacity of the pipeline from the Keurbooms River to 8,6Ml a day, ensuring a temporary supply.

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