Clarens – a Model for Participative Water Management
South Africa is historically a water scarce country, and prolonged droughts coupled with infrastructural decay have lead us to start considering water conservation as a priority. As recent events in the Western Cape suggest, climate change is a reality and will affect us all. The question is, what can we do about it?
Clarens, the heart of tourism in the Free State, faces the same challenge and is developing a response to the problem. The community has made a proactive decision to protect the welfare of its population and ensure that it remains one of SA’s top tourist destinations.
Led by the Clarens Community Forum the community has identified the problems involved in maintaining a dependable water supply, and is supplementing the ability of the Dihlabeng Municipality to address them. Retired professionals in the town have quantified the need for pumps and electrical switchgear to harness the flow of water from the Lesotho Highland Water Scheme that flows almost directly under the village. They also fix broken water pipes throughout the town, re result of age and lack of maintenance, which lose a large amount of the easting water supply.
The limited capacity of the Municipality to finance pumping equipment and maintain distribution pipelines has led the community of Clarens to fund these developments out of their own pockets. This partnership is the first step in a complete reticulation system that will include installation of a new R35million sewage processing plant promised by the Municipality 10 years ago.
At a recent Community meeting at the Golf Club, the idea of increasing the tap off from the Ash River Outlet and installing a new pump at our own expense was put forward, in an effort to assist the Municipality on our own behalf. After some debate, general agreement was reached and various members of the village stepped up and undertook to start fund raising and notifying the wider community about the issues and strategies.
Clarens as a community pulled together in an astounding manner and events ranging from Bingo Evening at Gostos (well done Carole and team!), raffles of art and even a Dog Show were soon under way.
And now barely 2 weeks later the chair of the CCF, Ray Meyers, has made a tremendous announcement (posted below). The community of Clarens has managed to raise the incredible amount of R215000 which will more than pay for the new pump, and may go some way towards starting legal processes for Clarens to begin assuming responsibility for its own administration and billing.
More than anything, Clarens has found a way to tackle a challenge head on, and by coming together as a village, finding and fixing leaks, educating each other and making a decision to be the solution, it shows itself as a model for other towns to try to secure the fundamental basics of water and electricity without being victims of municipal mismanagement and collapsing infrastructure.
Well done to all involved, every drop counts!