Northern Water Purification Works: Budget for 2016/2017. Comment and proposal from ARMOUR Correspondence sent as comment by Anthony Duigan
I write as convenor of ARMOUR (Action for Responsible Management of Our Rivers), with the intent to lobby for the funding and skilled human resources necessary to begin addressing the significant challenges of one of Joburg’s premier waterways, the Jukskei River - from source to the Northern Works.
Following the weeks’ long sewage discharges from Northern Works into the Jukskei River in August-September 2015, we began a petition to address this seriously among those living on the Jukskei and those with a direct interest in the water quality of this river system. Over 400 signatures were collected and forwarded to a range of authorities responsible for water, sewerage and river management. This led to the formation of ARMOUR whose aim is to ensure the responsible management of our rivers and water resources (www.armour.org).
It was our view that three elements led to the crisis situation that severely compromised the Jukskei last year (and not for the first time!) :
· A failure of management to timeously raise the alarm that a key facility of the City of Joburg was failing through lack of maintenance and skilled management
· Lack of support from the CoJ for Joburg Water, leading to an under-resourced company unable to meet the demands of a critical and over-burdened system
· A lack of robust engagement between civil society and the entities responsible for proper water and sewer management in the COJ, as a result of public indifference towards the deteriorating state of our waterways and water management.
ARMOUR was formed to address the third issue. The first two are in the ambit of Joburg Water and the CoJ. However, it is the belief of ARMOUR that robust engagement between civil society and JW/CoJ is now an imperative to ensure these first two elements are indeed addressed timeously and thoroughly.
Step one in this campaign has been the establishment of a River Forum, consisting of top officials in JW and representatives of a range of civil society bodies meeting monthly. The intention of this positive engagement is three-fold:
· To identify issues and problems before they become destructive and highly expensive
· To determine the actions to be taken, with the responsible persons and the timeframe agreed
· To monitor the outcomes of the interventions and ensure proper operation forward.
We have held four meetings to date and are appreciative of the responsiveness to date of the officials of JW, who we wish to support in every way possible.
Given that the budgets of the CoJ, including those for the Northern Works and the sewer and storm-water systems feeding the Jukskei River, are now being finalized, we wish to propose the following:
· That the necessary budget and resources be set aside for developing a complete and integrated strategy for the management of the total Jukskei River system. This would begin with a study that includes:
o The challenges and quality of all the tributaries, including those flowing into the system from Ekurhuleni.
o The pollution - sewage and litter - entering the system from Bruma Lake through Alexandra Township and how this can practically be tackled in the short- to medium-term.
o The sewer and storm-water system that is unable to cope, especially in rainy periods.
o The town planning failures that have led to overloaded sewage and storm-water systems, particularly on the north east of the City, and how these can be mitigated in the short-term
o The role of wetlands and how these can be saved/rehabilitated to assist in managing water run-offs.
o An overall and complete study of the Northern Works, commissioned more than 55 years ago and neglected in key aspects by the authorities over the past few decades, identifying the work needed to bring this facility up to the standard that a “World-class African City” needs and demands.
With the data from such a study available (and the points mentioned above are merely headlines of what is needed), it will be possible to develop a strategy for the responsible management of this premier waterway and all that it has to cope with and to get a good understanding of the budgets required to address not just the Northern Works but also the problems with what is reaching these Works through the inflows from tributaries and the storm-water and sewerage systems.
· While there is provision for specific maintenance of the Northern Works - eg the desludging of one of the dams, repairing clarifiers and Head of Works screens, etc - we have two concerns we would like addressed through appropriate budget allocations:
o Funding to upgrade the skill-levels of those operating the Northern Works and/or to bring in upskilled personnel able to manage the system efficiently. Without going into detail, we have reports of problems at the Works that can be directly placed at the door of poorly skilled and/or demotivated operators.
o A properly funded, resourced and managed maintenance system at Northern Works. The work being currently done to the screens, the pump station, retro-fitting of the older electrical equipment, the desludging of the dams, etc, should have been undertaken long before this. We believe this work was long overdue and was likely delayed due to lack of budget. Our strong recommendation is that the maintenance budget for Northern Works be seriously interrogated to ensure the resources required for sustained maintenance work is available as opposed to seeking budgets when damage has already been caused, as happened in the last half of last year.
I thank you for your attention and trust you will take these proposals seriously in developing the budget for Joburg Water for the coming financial year.
ARMOUR (Action for Responsible Management of Our Rivers)