“Water pure and wholesome” – watervoorsiening in Bloemfontein gedurende die 19de eeu
Botes, S Marianna
MetadataShow full item record
Bloemfontein and the greater Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality is today a modern metropolis using and consuming a considerable amount of water on a daily basis. Due to the severe droughts of 2014 and 2015, the water surface levels of the rivers and dams providing water to the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality dropped critically low. Although boreholes still supply sufficient water in some areas, strict water restrictions were imposed in July 2015 to kerb the use and consumption of municipal supplied water. It is, however, nothing new for Bloemfontein to experience serious shortages of water during periods of drought. In order to grasp an understanding of the water problems of the capital of the Free State Province, one have to turn to the history of the city’s water supply. In this article problems regarding water supply in Bloemfontein during the late 19th century is investigated. Due to the fact that Bloemfontein is not located next to a large river, the capital started experiencing water shortages as early as the 1880s. The water sources in the immediate vicinity such as fountains, the Bloemspruit, wells and dams, initially supplied sufficient water to the residents of Bloemfontein, but as the town developed rapidly since the advent of the railway in 1890 and became more populated, the existing water supply was no longer sufficient to provide for the capital’s growing needs. To solve this problem the town required an additional, reliable water source beyond its boundaries. For this purpose the Bloemfontein Water Supply Company was founded in 1889 to explore the possibility of obtaining “water pure and wholesome”. As several private concessionaries to whom concessions were granted to provide the capital with additional water failed, the Bloemfontein city council decided to take matters in own hand; especially since by 1894 the water shortage reached critical levels. In 1896 the Modder River Water Scheme was approved and by 1899 the Free State capital was supplied with water from the nearby Modder River. In spite of additional waterworks that were built at Maselspoort during the early 20th century and several large dams and reservoirs added over time, it did not adequately address the city’s water shortages, especially in times of severe droughts. Due to the current reality that an aging water and sanitation infrastructure is only repaired and not replaced, added to the fact that the Free State Province is known for its frequent droughts, the current Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality, that includes the city of Bloemfontein, today still experiences problems with water supply. Accordingly the water problems that started in the 1880s are continuing in the 21st century and even intensify. A solution to this problem is urgently required.