Water: govt gets tough

2016-03-02 11:17

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Pietermaritzburg - The province’s municipalities have been given until the end of the week to present their plans for reducing water consumption by 15%.

The KwaZulu-Natal co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) department announced at a conference in Durban yesterday that the reduction in consumer demand for water was necessary to prevent taps running dry.

Cogta MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube said if water savings are achieved now, the amount of water in Midmar and Albert Falls, two of the most drought-affected dams in KZN, could last until the next rains arrive.

“If we do not act now, the water taps of at least five million people who live within these catchments will run dry,” said Dube-Ncube.

In a statement released by Cogta yesterday, it said the drought had intensified throughout the summer months despite the extreme storms some isolated parts of the province had experienced.

The statement said reservoir levels were declining and the El Niño phenomenon was slowing down the rate of recovery.

“Water restrictions are never a popular choice, but it is the only way to ensure the remaining water outlasts the current drought,” said Dube-Ncube.

She said that the restrictions had been approved and were to be gazetted.

Cogta’s statement went on to warn the public on how the drought had severely affected tourism and agriculture in the province.

“The farmers are reporting massive losses of livestock and crops and economists have said there is a rise in unemployment and an increase in the price of agricultural produce.

“To counter these developments, we have procured more than 53 motorised water tankers for various districts,” said the statement.

Cogta said they had drilled more than 150 boreholes, refurbished a further 85 as well as providing R600 million to the farming community and would continue providing drought relief to those in need.

Meanwhile, with Midmar Dam levels now critical, Umgeni Water said transferring water from Henley Dam to Midmar would not be feasible.

Msunduzi Municipality confirmed last month that washer restricters would be put on meters to limit the amount of water used in the city.

Combining this measure with lower water pressure, the city hopes to cut 15% of its water consumption so that there will be enough water for Pietermaritzburg when winter comes.

Those affected have suggested to Umgeni Water might that transferring water from Henley Dam and Spring Grove Dam would help.

Umgeni Water corporate stakeholder manager Shami Harichunder said yesterday that Henley Dam had capacity that “is significantly smaller than that of Midmar Dam” and would not be able to meet the city’s demands.

“When at 100% capacity, which it is at present, Henley Dam has 1 522 megalitres (ML) of water. Midmar Dam, on the other hand, when at 100%, can hold 235 000 ML of water,” said Harichunder.

“As can be seen by these figures, even if Henley Dam was presently functional, the amount of water it has will not be able to meet, in full, present demand.”

Henley Dam was decommissioned by Umgeni Water as a water supply dam in the 1990s.

Harichunder said that sections of the pipeline from the dam have been removed and other sections blocked off with concrete, as part of the decommissioning process.

“Realistically, the re-commissioning of this dam is not a feasible or a practical option,” he said.

“Water is being supplied from Spring Grove Dam using pumps which the Department of Water and Sanitation is commissioning.

“Water is also being supplied from Mearns using pumps. Umgeni Water implements the most effective operating rule depending on the situation,” said Harichunder.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  water affairs

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