Unpalatable brown water pours from taps in Parys

03 January 2020 - 06:49 By Kgaugelo Masweneng
Ngwathe municipality in Parys, Free State, says it is working to resolve the issue. File image.
Ngwathe municipality in Parys, Free State, says it is working to resolve the issue. File image.
Image: 123RF/Kari Haraldsdatter Høglund

Brown water is pouring from the taps of residents living in the Ngwathe municipality in Parys, Free State.

Selma Kok from the Vaal Action Group, which monitors pollution in the Vaal River, said the problem had been ongoing for years.

“Our water is brown. This means we can’t do much with it, people are basically without water. The quality of water is not good at all,” said Kok.

“When people wash their clothes, they come out dirtier than before. There is no healthy water to drink,” she said.

A resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said, “We have been promised better water but nothing changes. We don’t have a choice but to drink it and use it on a daily basis. Even though it’s not safe, we drink it. We don’t wear white clothes any more because how will we wash it?” he asked.

Another resident, Nomakhaza Moloi, said it was a huge inconvenience.

“There are red worms coming out of the water and it stinks like sewage. We can’t cook with it or drink it. If you can afford, you have to buy your own, if not you use the same water. It’s bad.

” We don’t lead normal lives. We are four in the house ... imagine families that don’t have any income,” Moloi said.

“What are the vulnerable supposed to do? The old, sick and young are mostly victimised.”

Ngwathe local municipality councillor Andries Vrey said that municipal infrastructure undoubtedly contributed to the situation.

“[The problem is] our ageing water reticulation network, which results in water being contaminated once it leaves the treatment plant, as it is distributed to residents. Many years of poor maintenance and neglect has resulted in an extremely bad network.

“It has been estimated that water losses in the network may be as high as 40%,” he said.

“On the municipal level, we’re also hampered by the municipal financial situation. Ngwathe’s finances are in shambles — basically insolvent, with literally everything [if it gets done] being done on credit. In just the first three months of the current financial year, our debt grew by about R140m.

“So, there’s just no money to fix the problem. With more than R2b of debt and a very low-income collection rate, service delivery will in time grind to a halt, unless the finances improve,” Vrey added.

Municipal spokesperson Steve Naale said authorities were working on improving water infrastructure.

“Every time there are heavy rains on the upstream of the Vaal river, the raw water turbidity become extremely high, resulting in the purification process being under severe constraints.

“We normally optimise the water purification process as and when required. The municipality is testing the water as per SANS 241 [standards] and is in partnership with stakeholders such as the department of water & sanitation and Rand Water to ensure continuous improvement of water quality and quantity,” said Naale.

He said the situation had improved drastically and was being monitored closely.