Town owes R260m for water
The Bushbuckridge municipality owes about R260 million to the water board, the Mpumalanga department of co-operative governance said.
"The municipality has already begun paying the debt and has entered into a service level agreement with the water board," the department said in a statement.
"[The municipality] started paying R5 million a month over and above the normal monthly tariff in an attempt to reduce or settle the alleged debt."
It was this debt owed to the Bushbuckridge Water Board which had led to water supply challenges in the area, it said.
The affected villages were Lillydale, Casteel, Acornhoek and Hluvukani.
In May, Lillydale residents protested over drinking water in the area which had been found unfit for human consumption.
Nine people were arrested after the protesters torched municipal offices and a grader.
According to the 2012 Blue Drop Report, the water of 14 municipalities, including Bushbuckridge, did not meet government standards.
Residents were advised to treat the water by boiling it or by adding bleach before drinking it.
The co-operative governance department said the challenges in Bushbuckridge were historical and common in poor areas of Mpumalanga.
"These challenges are as a result of apartheid spatial planning patterns, where communities were settled on what was designed as farms without changing their land use," it said.
"These unrecognised human settlements have high population density and weak infrastructure to deliver basic services."
The department said a number of steps had been taken to alleviate the water problem.
These included the construction of the billion-rand Inyaka Dam and a pipeline from the Dam to Acornhoek at a cost R117m.
The Hoxane water scheme was extended to 45ML/day, costing R70.46m. Pipelines had been built between Hoxane and Lillydale and sewerage facilities had been upgraded, it said.
"In areas where water supply remains a challenge the municipality is supplying the affected communities with water using water tankers as an interim measure."
The department said it was working with the department of water affairs and the municipality to address the water problems.