‘KZN close to tipping point’

2015-10-23 11:15

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Pietermaritzburg - The last time the Midmar Dam level stood at 54%  was during the drought of 1983.

With the dam level sitting at 54,09%, concern over the province’s driest year in over a century continues to grow.

Yesterday, Umgeni Water held its annual performance presentation in Durban, which heard that although the utility’s systems seem to be coping with the extremely dry conditions, the South Coast and Greytown are bearing the brunt of the drought.

With Hazelmere Dam at 28,3% and Lake Merthley in Greytown at 10%, tight water restrictions have impacted on the daily lives of residents in those areas.

Chief executive Cyril Gamede said the province had experienced “below average rainfall for almost 15 months”.

“The worst affected areas are the Middle Coast supplied by the Umzinto Sytem, and the north of eThekwini and part of iLembe supplied by the Hazelmere system,” he said.

In June, the national Water and Sanitation Department declared the whole of KZN to be experiencing a drought, and as spring comes to an end, there is concern over whether the rain needed to fill KZN’s dams will come at all.

Umgeni Water engineering and scientific services manager Steve Gillham said yesterday that although they remained hopeful that the rain would come, things were “close to tipping point”.

“For the last two years, the province has had below average rainfall and the results have been dramatic.

“The last time Midmar Dam was sitting just above 50% was probably during the 1983 drought,” he said.

Gillham said that although Umgeni could advise municipalities on water restrictions, they could not enforce them.

“With Hazelmere, we did request the municipality begin rationing the water for the area, but things continued as they were until we told them that if it continued this way, they would only have 60 days of water left.

“The municipality then imposed water restrictions of 30% and it has had a marked effect.”

He said it was important for a municipality to act before “it is too late” and that good management and forward planning were important.

Umgeni Water chief financial officer Thami Hlongwa said they would propose levies on the initial cost of water supplied to municipalities during droughts.

“If there is a water shortage of five percent, a levy will be put in above the tariff. This will go up to 30%, but if it goes beyond, you may as well close up shop,” he said.

Umgeni Water is managing emergency schemes to provide relief during the drought, such as transferring water from Mpambanyoni River into EJ Smith Dam on the South Coast, and transferring water from the uThongathi River to Hazelmere Dam.

UMGENI Water will be disestablished next year as water systems are amalgamated to form a single water service utility to provide water to the entire province.

Chief executive Cyril Gamede said yesterday that the water and sanitation ministry had begun a reform process to promote “streamlining of the South African water sector”.

“In terms of this process, Umgeni Water will be disestablished, along with Mhlathuze Water, and one water utility will be formed to serve KwaZulu-Natal.

“The establishment of a single entity will bring to an end fragmented water service provisions and begin a new process of consolidated provision of water across the province.”

The formation of a single regional water utility would materialise in late 2016 or early 2017

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  drought

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