Exploring the QwaQwa water crisis for effective planning in post-apartheid South Africa
Water scarcity in the twenty-first century is an issue that affects both the developed and developing world. This study focused on exploring the water crisis in QwaQwa, Free State. On 1 January 2016, the community of QwaQwa experienced water access challenges with no water accessible from taps. The Fika Patso Dam, which supplies 85% of water in QwaQwa, had water levels below 10%. This sparked interest to explore the QwaQwa water crisis because the study area is a water source of the Tugela, Caledon and Elands rivers that provide water to major parts of South Africa. Two other dams, the Metsi Matsho and Sterkfontein dams, supply the remaining 15% of QwaQwa with water. The Metsi Matsho Dam is situated in QwaQwa, while the Sterkfontein Dam lies 20 km outside of QwaQwa. The study employed an exploratory sequential mixed methods approach by using exploratory qualitative and survey quantitative components to collect data. Primary qualitative data were collected through 26 interview schedules, 10 informal encounters and observations, while primary quantitative data was collected using a validated questionnaire from 571 households. Literature and archival data review, GIS, Google Maps and census were secondary data sources. Qualitative data were analysed using discourse and thematic data analysis, and descriptive and inferential statistics were used to describe and make inferences from the quantitative data. The study found that when QwaQwa was established as a homeland in 1974, there was a water crisis that was caused by predatory form of planning that led to the forceful removal of Basotho from farms and towns around the Free State and beyond. The Basotho were settled in the Phuthaditjhaba Township and villages with the aim of creating class segregation between these two groups. Upon being settled in QwaQwa, water was provided through water tankers, rivers and streams that signified a water crisis. In 1968 the Sterkfontein was planned and developed as a water reservoir for the Vaal River system to address urbanisation and drought in Johannesburg, using water drawn from QwaQwa. In 1976 the Metsi Matsho dam became operational in QwaQwa but did not sufficiently cater for population increase from 24 000 people in 1970 to 248 000 people in 1980. In 1986, the Fika Patso Dam became operational in QwaQwa but was reported with inconsistent river perennial flow of the Namahadi River. After 1994, the democratic dispensation aimed to address the injustices of water access for previously disadvantaged communities such as QwaQwa that were marginalised. The Maluti-a-Phofung Local Municipality was established in 2000, and the Maluti-a-Phofung Water in 2005 as the primary supplier of water in QwaQwa. In 2008, one out of four phases of a water pipeline from QwaQwa was constructed to supply two out of 103 areas. On 1 January 2016, QwaQwa experienced severe water shortages and Maluti-a-Phofung cited drought as the cause. Water tankers were appointed to deliver water to the community. Participants however indicated that they accessed less water, incurred unbudgeted costs and time and travelled longer distances to access low quality water. Participants believed that climate change, corruption, dam crises, negligence of infrastructure and ecological factors caused the QwaQwa water crisis. The community of QwaQwa accessed water from water tankers, rivers and streams, purchasing water, rainwater harvesting, greywater, from the taps occasionally and boreholes. The study made seven recommendations. Firstly, Maluti-a-Phofung should perform its primary functions according to the Constitution; the Water Services Act and Municipal Systems Act and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Second, ensuring that infrastructure is resilient to climate change conditions. Third, maintain, upgrade and construct new water infrastructure to sufficiently provide water in QwaQwa. Fourth, employ water use education for the community to use water as a limited natural resource. Fifth, effective planning for water to meet the demand in QwaQwa. Sixth, exploration of alternative water sources such as boreholes, rainwater harvesting and waterless infrastructure sanitation systems. Lastly, the reinstatement of the services tax for the villages in QwaQwa and efficient collection of rates and services in Phuthaditjhaba.