The ongoing water-woes at Hartbeespoort Dam led to an appeal to Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa. After a site visit another deadline is added to the many which came before – she gave six months for the pumps to be repaired and to be in perfect working order.

While repairs were done on the pump at Xanadu during the last week of March, a hose was run into the veld, and sewage pumped into the wetlands.  Nearby Birds Haven residents had to cope with the overwhelming stench.

As recently as 2010, the Department of Water Affairs allocated R500 000 to the Madibeng Municipality to enhance institutional capacity and a further R27-million for a bulk water project, which included the expansion of the water purification works.

Acting DG Nobu Ngele of Department of Water Affairs (DWA) said in the last quarter of 2010 that the department's enforcement unit continues to take legal steps against officials and the Madibeng Municipality, in particular, for allowing sewage from its wastewater treatment plant to pollute the Hartbeespoort dam.

Root of Problems – Excessive Phosphorus

The report explains, "The water of Hartbeespoort Dam has been extremely eutrophicated for several decades due to excessive nutrient loading that originates largely from wastewater treatment discharges into the Jukskei River in Johannesburg. Every year over 170 metric tonnes of phosphorus is discharged into the dam. The combination of nutrient availability and suitable biophysical factors (such as temperature, water depth and water flow) cause dense cyanobacteria growth in the water. The overwhelming algal blooms create a characteristic set of problems that have prevailed in the Hartbeespoort Dam ever since the early 1970s.

For many years the rehabilitation possibilities of the dam focused on the control of phosphate at point source discharges, which was seen as the only solution."

Key to Rehabilitation

The challenge is to reduce the amount of fertilising chemicals, particularly phosphorus, from entering the dam. It is also important to manage the unavoidable quantity of phosphorus in such a way that it does not disturb the natural processes in the dam.

Although the dam is located in Madibeng Local Municipality, it is the activities upstream in Gauteng that largely cause pollution entering into Hartbeespoort Dam. The local authorities of Tshwane, Johannesburg and Mogale must carry significant responsibility for the quality of the water.

Metsi a me

The rehabilitation programme at the dam - Metsi a me - continues to work towards the long term objectives.

On 16 August 2010 a pilot project commenced, testing the long term removal of sediments from the Crocodile river inlet. The removal of sediment is a vital action in the rehabilitation programme.

Pollution is trapped in the sediments, and when disturbed, is released as an additional nutrient load into the water of the Dam.

The dredging operation will extract small quantities of sediment at three locations in the Crocodile River and the dam. The dredged material is contained into specially developed ponds on the properties of Roos se Oord and Oberon.

An Information Communication Knowledge Centre at the dam wall opened on 4 December 2010. The Centre offers information about algae and hyacinth harvesting, litter and debris removal, vermiculture (an important element in processing the "waste" from the dam), and re-establishment of indigenous vegetation.

Inter-provincial forum

A North West/Gauteng Interprovincial Forum compromising of various stakeholders, including the Magaliesberg Biosphere Project Steering Committee, must meet at least twice a year.  That is, the representatives of those departments and projects concerned with Planning within the Magaliesberg region and the catchment area of the Hartbeespoort Dam.

The identified stakeholders also include the MECs for environmental affairs in the two provinces, the municpal managers (Johannesburg, Tshwane, Mogale, West Rand District, Bojanala District, Ekurhuleni, Randfonteina and Rustenburg), Rand Water, the Cradle Management Authority, and senior officials from the departments of Water Affairs, Environmental Affairs and Minerals.

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