By the time disaster relief organisation Gift of the Givers reaches Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) on Tuesday with truckloads of bottled water, large parts of the city will have had dry taps for eight days, Grocott’s Mail reported.

Residents queued for hours on Sunday as trucks organised by a municipality-led crisis committee struggled to service thousands of households. Civic group Makana Revive, whose members spent the week picking up refuse across the city during a strike, has turned its attention to boosting water deliveries to desperate families.

Makana municipality issued a notice on Friday warning that to protect the pumps at the water works, they would be switched off until the supply settles.

The dry taps in east Makhanda are due to excessive turbidity in the Orange/Fish river supply to the James Kleynhans Water Treatment Works that services the eastern part of the city and 19 streets in the west.

“This process will take four to five days and there will be no supply to Grahamstown East during this period. Trucks have started delivering water to distribution points and will continue until supply is restored,” Makana municipality posted.

Later that night, Mayor Mzukisi Mpahlwa apologised for the inconvenience caused by the prolonged water outage. The situation was made worse by Eskom’s surprise stage 2 load shedding.

The last official estimate for Settlers Dam, the reservoir for the supply of eight megalitres a day to areas of the city west of the railway line, was given as 13% of its capacity. Experts have warned the last 10% cannot be pumped, and water from other dams will have to be rationed.

A joint operation based at Makana and including business, education and other stakeholders was formed last month to deal with a diminished water supply.

Vehicles from neighbouring Ndlambe and Ngqushwa municipalities as well as Rhodes University have been delivering truckloads of water to around 80 000 residents in Joza, Tantyi, Vukani and other areas over the past few days.

Read: No water for 25 days and counting: Bethal’s pipe of hope brings relief

‘We can’t send them to school like that’

On Sunday, Grocott’s Mail found rows of buckets on sidewalks in Joza and Fingo Village, with their hot and tired owners sheltering inside or under trees as they listened out for the trucks.

B Street resident Manuel Chauke, who was standing in a queue with a group of people outside Nathaniel Nyaluza Secondary School at about 13:30, told Grocott’s Mail that they had been waiting for three hours.

“The councillor told us the truck would come yesterday,” Chauke said. “We waited two hours and it never came.”

Ward 10 councillor Luyanda Sakata was present when a flatbed truck with two full water tanks arrived around 15:30 in C Street. Old and young rushed to the truck with every container they could find – bottles, basins, bowls and buckets.

The Makabe brothers, Chumani and Chumile, live with their cousin Aphiwe Makeba in Vukani. The boys were walking, carrying containers to fill from a tank at the family home in Fingo – a good 3km away.

In Joza, in the shade above TM Mrwetyana School, a group of mothers with their children had been queueing since 10:00, they said. It was by then around 14:30.

“Look at these children,” one mom said. “They haven’t bathed and their uniforms are dirty. We can’t send them to school like that.”

Diocesan School for Girls last week took water to Tantyi Primary School. Some schools closed early on Thursday because there was no water in the toilets.

Read more: No water for 25 days and counting: Bethal’s pipe of hope brings relief

‘We’ll assist as best we can’

Ali Sooliman of Gift of the Givers on Sunday night confirmed to Grocott’s Mail that their trucks were currently loading water and depart today (Monday) from Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban with hundreds of tons of bottled water.

“We leave Cape Town tomorrow and will be there Tuesday,” Sooliman told Grocott’s Mail.

“Dr Gideon Groenewald, Gift of the Givers specialist hydrologist, geologist, palaeontologist, will engage the municipality to see what sustainable alternatives could be found in the immediate to medium term as work continues to double the capacity of the James Kleynhans Water Works,” Sooliman said in a statement posted on the organisation’s website.

“Dr Groenewald has been responsible for successfully sighting water for Gift of the Givers enabling us to drill 200 boreholes in an eight month period providing 50 million litres of water daily.

“Gift of the Givers will assist as best it can. Intervention in the drought through boreholes, bottled water, animal fodder and food parcels for retrenched farmworkers has already cost us R160m.”

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Read the full story on Grocott’s Mail.

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