Some residents of Phalaborwa and surrounding areas in Limpopo have spent more than a week without water after a nearby dam was left empty when authorities opened the floodgate to release pressure. The residents say they have been without water after Lepelle Northern Water failed to close a broken barrage radial gate and left the plant empty at Olifants River.
One of the residents told a national newspaper that for the past seven days he had no water at his home and that he has been using rain water for washing and cooking.
“It has been a difficult week for us as the community because we couldn’t even use flushing toilets. We’re now relieving ourselves in the bushes. I had to get a few buckets to save rain water because I had no choice. What is frustrating about the whole thing is that no-one is communicating with us residents,” said the resident.
Another resident, who wished to remain anonymous as she works for the government, confirmed that water has become a scarce resource in Phalaborwa.
“This government doesn’t care about us because it didn’t even bother to provide water tankers for us. We had to make our plans and beg from those who have boreholes in their yards to provide us with water,” she said.
Lepelle Northern Water spokesperson Simon Mpamonyane said the water scheme was operating to limited capacity after repairs.
“The reservoir is slightly improving and the challenge is that the system was empty from the pipelines, hence other areas are still going to experience shortages of water and low pressure,” he said.
Mpamonyane said if things go well, by today the situation would have stabilised.
The water crisis didn’t only hit hard on residents in the area but also left businesses in the mining and tourism town suffering. Owner of Sefapane Lodge, Joris Bertens said his business had suffered a 15% loss in revenue since the crisis erupted.
“I have lost a lot of money because I couldn’t accommodate tourists due to lack of water. Those who have booked cancelled their bookings after learning that there is no water,” he said.
Bertens, who is also a member of the Phalaborwa Tourism Association, said many of his fellow business owners have written to the municipality asking that the ageing infrastructure be repaired.
According to a mineworker, operations at one of the mines were affected and on earlier this week, employees were asked to return home due to lack of water.