Water update December 2022

by | Jan 3, 2023 | Blog, Water


Email: sdsgndlambe@gmail.com

Background information

BRRAG, KOSRA, Chamber of Business and Tourism and Estuary Care established a combined representative body, the SDSG (Service Delivery Support Group) to assist Ndlambe Municipality initially in the procurement of sufficient water for Wards 3 and 4. This led to the establishment of another group called the Water Management Committee (WMC) which was made up of Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation (DWS), Amatola Water (AW), Ndlambe Local Municipality (NLM) and the SDSG to engage with sole purpose of assisting Amatola produce the water needed.  The WMC has facilitated the signing of a groundbreaking formal agreement or Terms of Reference (TOR) with all of the aforementioned parties.

This also then led to the formation of the Technical Task Team (TTT) to deal with the technicalities in producing water. This TTT is chaired by the SDSG and has representation from the other member organizations. This Technical team meets regularly to help Amatola ensure adequate and responsible water availability to the community.

The main objective is to establish and maintain a collaborative environment by harnessing the combined strengths to ensure that sufficient water is supplied to the community. This, of course, is not without conflict and disagreement with many challenges but all meetings are held in a positive manner with the common objective to provide sufficient water to the community.

Current position

Water supply

The Albany Coast Reverse Osmosis Plant (ACRO) plant at Boesmans is a complex operation with many different aspects, which are interdependent, making the plant vulnerable to breakdowns. This requires management agility and quick reaction time.

The ACRO plant, managed by Amatola Water, remains under pressure to deliver enough water to the community and faces many challenges.

Some of the challenges are that the plant is operating within SANParks, and recreation and residential areas, the drawing of sufficient raw water from many wells over a wide geographic area, ESKOM’s fluctuating power supply, absence of management continuity, timely procurement, and project implementation.

In recent months, SDSG has directed two letters to the Minister of Water and Sanitation when it was clear that Amatola Water was not going to be able to provide adequate water to the Ward 3&4 communities and after reaching day zero.

Water restrictions are required to ensure enough reserves in the reservoirs, which will ensure that higher lying areas also receive water.

There are three main categories to the SDSG involvement:

  • Management of the plant
  • Technical matters
  • Social & Environmental challenges

Managerial challenges

  • Amatola Board of Directors:  The Chairperson of the Board has been replaced three times in 3 years and recently the entire Board was replaced. This has obviously led to a continuity challenge.
  • AW CEO: Amatola appointed an acting CEO during September 2022. (Third in 18 months)
  • Procurement processes with AW: On a plant that needs quick responses for spares, etc. The procurement process within AW is not suitable for the needs of the plant.
  • ACRO Plant Management structure: A Reverse Osmosis Plant is a highly specialized operation and the SDSG believes the current management structure and lines of accountability are not suited to meet this demand. Pressure was placed on the AW Board to appoint a permanent Plant Manager, but this has not been done. A temporary Plant Engineer was appointed for an initial 6 months, which has now been extended for another six months.
  • Communication: Inadequate communication with stakeholders, inclusive of end users.
  • Implementation of conceptualised and agreed solutions: Inadequate support to implement new conceptualised solutions.
  • Only RO plant in the Amatola portfolio: The ACRO plant is the only RO plant in the Amatola portfolio, which requires different skills and reaction times than conventional water operations.

Technical challenges

  • Raw water provision: – Provision of enough raw water to the plant without contamination by biological matter and sand remains the single most critical technical issue. Formal submissions were made to AW through the TTT and WMC to resolve the challenge. Unfortunately, the proposed solution by AW is not aligned with the formal submissions made to it.
  • New boreholes: In the past two weeks three new boreholes were drilled with the pipeline and cable installed within the SANParks area.
  • Dias pipeline leaks: Water leaks on the pipeline are scheduled to for repairs.
  • Dias wells: Two wells were scheduled to be repaired. This is more than a year overdue.
  • Bridge crossing: Pipes were procured and are on site. AW is in process of appointing a contractor to replace the existing leaking pipeline, which is also a year overdue.
  • Project implementation: – Unsatisfactory project management and timelines are experienced.
  • Reticulation leakages: – Ndlambe and AW are constantly fixing leakages on the reticulation system.

Social & Environmental issues

  • The objective of SDSG is to receive water in a socially and environmentally responsible manner, since the plant operations are within an environmentally and socially sensitive area (SANParks & recreational river beach area), directly adjacent to community housing and utilizing community infrastructure.

Problem areas identified include brine discharge into the estuary, chemical discharge into the estuary and SANParks area, noise and vibration levels, dangerous and unsightly installations on the beach and SANParks areas, no rehabilitation of redundant infrastructure unsuitable for industrial use and aesthetically unsuitable for the sensitive environment, required authorizations not always obtained for installations done, unsightly sea well and operations in the middle of the river recreational area, etc.

  • A Social and Environmental Report (SER) was submitted by the Technical Task Team (TTT) to Ndlambe and Amatola to address the identified areas.
  • Unfortunately, very little progress except an action matrix was prepared in this regard. The matter was brought under the attention of the Amatola management, Department of Water and Sanitation as well as the Minister of that Department.
  • Amatola Water retrospectively contracted CES, an environmental contractor, to obtain approval for work already performed. SDSG sought clarification by telephone calls, two letters but no information has been provided to date. A CES representative provided telephonic information stating that the work will be performed to increase water supply –which is incorrect.
  • Matters on which clarification was sought include:
    – Construction of huge green 1Ml water tank
    – Additional brine discharge into the Bushman’s River estuary
    – Installation of a pipeline
    – Installation of five water sand mining pumps on the river beach area

SDSG will participate on the work group to be established by CES on behalf of AW to address

The retrospective environmental approvals sought.


There is no easy or quick solution to the challenges experienced.

Active, constructive involvement in the process by the community organizations and supporting Ndlambe and Amatola are crucial as an integral part of finding lasting solutions to the challenges and to ensure long term sustainable and responsible water provision.

SDSG is working with Ndlambe to introduce an additional and/or alternative water service provider for Wards 3&4 to mitigate risk and reduce reliance on the ACRO plant.

This is a long-term solution, which requires formal investigation, processes, and approvals.

Continued active and constructive involvement and support to AW and Ndlambe is an important action to ensure water availability to our communities.

The Minister published his intention to broaden the powers of Amatola Water, which will be opposed by the wider Ndlambe community and organizations.

In Conclusion

Self-help and reliance have become a way of life in South Africa. This is no different for water availability in our area.

SDSG and participating organizations have adopted an approach to be positively and actively involved to ensure the best possible outcome.

Members of the public are urged to continue their support of the community organizations and to report leaks in the reticulation system.

Installation of rainwater tanks to reduce water dependence is strongly advised.


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