Focus on Oudtshoorn project

Dr Chris Hartnady (Technical Director of Umvoto Africa) discusses the water project with Oudtshoorn Municipality Executive Mayor, Gordon April
WDC Hartnady and Mayor.JPG

Oudtshoorn, capital of the Klein Karoo, has been linked to good design since the ostrich feather boom of the 1870s, with its flamboyant fashions and opulent palaces. This year, in a modern twist to the story, its municipal water project has been selected as part of World Design Capital 2014 (WDC2014).

World Design Capital is a prestigious designation bestowed every second year by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design. Previous winners were Helsinki, Seoul and Turin, with Cape Town taking the 2014 slot. All these cities are dedicated to using design as a tool for social, cultural and economic development.

Two rigorously-adjudicated public submission processes drew 1 253 entries to be part of the DC2014 programme. Some 450 projects, including Oudtshoorn’s, were selected. The submission was put forward by water, energy and earth sciences consultancy Umvoto Africa, which has worked with the Oudtshoorn local municipality for over a decade.

Paul Müller, Acting Director: Technical Services for the Municipality, explained that the current water project goes back to 1999 when a visionary councillor, Issy Baron, dreamed of turning the arid Klein Karoo into an oasis. He wanted to ensure water security for all communities in the region.

The Klein Karoo Rural Water Supply Scheme (KKRWSS) was implemented by the Department of Water Affairs in the early ‘90s.  It supplies drinking water from groundwater sources to a wide area stretching form De Rust in the east to Calitzdorp in the west, including the town of Dysselsdorp. The Scheme was transferred to the Oudtshoorn Municipality in 2005.

The rural component of the scheme accounts for about 50% of the total supply of drinking water. Its main beneficiaries are farm workers and previously disadvantaged people living in the rural area between De Rust and Calitzdorp.

The present supply from the groundwater source is insufficient to meet the demand, so augmentation of the source is urgent, said Müller.  A pipeline from the nearby Blossoms groundwater well field would alleviate the shortage.

Groundwater from the deep fractured-rock aquifer in the Table Mountain Group (TMG) will augment the existing surface-water storage in the Melville and Raubenheimer reservoirs in the foothills of the Swartberg range, said Dr Chris Hartnady, Umvoto Africa Technical Director. It will also augment TMG and other groundwater sources from the KKRWSS in the western part of the Kammanassie range, and thus provide additional assurance of supply to communities like Dysseldorp and De Rust.

The combined ground- and surface-water sources will be managed conjunctively to ensure that yield is optimised and losses are minimised in the overall scheme. The Blossoms groundwater will be piped to a reservoir in Oudtshoorn during the hot summer months, or as needed.

The proposed bulk water scheme will be designed by WorleyParsons, which has been involved with the feasibility studies to date. Partners have included the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, the Water Research Commission, the Department of Water Affairs, the Development Bank of South Africa, local stakeholders, landowners and farming organisations and drilling specialists.

The municipal cost to date has been R24 million and an additional R27 million has been allocated by the Department of Water Affairs. The total cost of the project is estimated at R200 million. 

Umvoto Africa MD Rowena Hay said challenges have included siting the deepest, highest-yielding production borehole in the hardest, most abrasive quartzitic sandstone formations known. Umvoto also had to research and manage how water falling in surrounding mountains reached the wellfield area (where the aquifer is closest to surface, albeit still at least300 m below ground).

“The main concerns have been proving aquifer yield, evaluating cost benefits and establishing whether the farming area in the Outeniqua region would be negatively impacted if Oudtshoorn pumped groundwater from the wellfield.  Groundwater is, however, recharged by rainfall.  Provided that the abstraction of groundwater by all parties in the region is properly monitored and managed to ensure that in the long run less water is withdrawn than the recharge from rain, groundwater is a sustainable option.” 

The project area also has potential as a geoheritage site – a tourist destination that would provide local and regional economic benefits throughout the year, she said. This would create more income for the community and help ensure greater buy-in to the project.



comments powered by Disqus


This edition

Issue 68