Durban – eThekwini Municipality water shortages loom

A common problem in many parts of South Africa is the continued construction of urban housing projects that take little notice of the dire water situation and future water shortages are thus guaranteed.  These new developments should incorporate rainwater harvesting and rain water tanks into the building plans to ensure residents have some alternative water supply to supplement already stretched water resources.

Durban – eThekwini Municipality was at risk of being unable to meet the growing demand for water supply, the municipality’s head of Water and Sanitation Unit, Neil Macleod, said.
water shortages Durban
With the first phase of the Cornubia housing project scheduled to be completed next month, he said, there would be no water for the families expected to occupy the 486 units. Nor would there be a water supply for the iDube Tradeport.

Macleod painted this bleak picture during his presentation on meeting the demand for water in the city for the next 30 years at the municipality’s executive committee (Exco) meeting yesterday.

“Supply does not match demand,” he said. Macleod explained that the construction of Spring Grove Dam, in Mooi River, was completed and when the dam started delivering water, the municipality would return to an acceptable level of risk for “a matter of months only”.

He said another source of water was needed immediately and seeing the Mkomazi Dam, Smithfield, which would cost more than R20 billion, would only start operating in about 2030, interim solutions were needed.

The main solution put forward yesterday was to reduce non-revenue water which is costing the city more than R400 million a year.

According to Macleod, the biggest contributor to non-revenue water is illegal connections and leaking pipes. Other water losses result from theft and burst water pipes.

“Our water loss is 36 percent of total purchases from uMngeni Water. This has reduced from 45 percent when the metro municipality was formed in 2000. If nothing is done to manage non-revenue water, it can be expected to increase every year by two percent,” he said.

His unit has only four people who search for leaks and needs six more people to help with this work load.

On how to meet the increased demand, Macleod said the most growth in demand for water was expected in the north, followed by the west.

“The Western Aqueduct is being constructed and budget for the Northern Aqueduct to start has been approved,” he said. The Western Aqueduct is an R864-million pipeline project by the municipality that is expected to supply an estimated 400 million litres of water a day to Durban’s western areas.

His department would also focus on reducing the average water pressure in the city’s networks as well as replacing the remaining AC water mains.

Exco councillors expressed concern about there being no water supply for the Cornubia housing project and the need to educate the public about saving water.

The Minority Front’s Patrick Pillay said councillors were told five years ago that the infrastructure replacement programme, the replacing of old AC pipes with PVC pipes, would reduce water losses.

“This does not seem to be happening,” he said “Water is a basic right of individuals and families,” Pillay said.

The DA’s Heinz de Boer also expressed concern about the number of burst water pipes.

ANC councillors Zandile Gumede and Nigel Gumede expressed the need to educate the public on water saving and to put a stop to illegal connections, through community meetings.

Macleod said they had tried to get people to sign acceptance of debt letters and work on a debt repayment plan which had failed.

Source: IOL (By Noelene Barbeau)

Clearly, municipal water supplies will not cope with future housing developments should these trends continue.  Government should implement rainwater harvesting programmes and education and perhaps subsidise water tanks for poor households.  Durban and many areas of Kwazulu-Natal have high annual rainfall in the summer months so rainwater tanks at each household could go a long way to alleviate water shortages.

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