User pays: PMB paying for Spring Grove Dam for future share of water

2012-03-28 00:00

LOCAL municipalities, including Msunduzi, signed an agreement with the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) in May 2011 to pay for the new Spring Grove Dam.

DWA's Mava Scott said that extensive negotiations — based on the concept of users pay — were started in 2008. “All parties including Msunduzi Municipality eventually signed the agreement in May 2011,” Scott said.

The Witness queried the issue after it turned out that 11% of a proposed 22% Msunduzi water hike would go towards paying for the dam and local civic organisations questioned why municipal tariffs were funding a national infrastructure project.

Scott said the project was being developed for the benefit of water users of the Mgeni System and consequently, as has become the norm in the country, the cost of augmenting the water supply will be borne by the users.

“The same norm is also followed in other major centres,” he added.

He said the tariff increases were kept to a minimum because the Spring Grove dam was more affordable in relation to the cost of water projects implemented elsewhere. This was due to the more favourable topographical conditions obtaining in the basin.

He said that future increases in the capital unit charge for the dam will be aligned to Consumer Price Inflation in the medium term, with the tariff remaining constant in later years until the project costs have been repaid.

The aim would be to alleviate the burden on water users.

Scott added that the dam represented an investment in water security for the population relying on the Mgeni System. He said any sustained drought would lead to severe water restrictions for a growing population which currently encompasses some five million people.

There would also be serious consequences for economic development in the important Pietermaritzburg/eThekwini area.

“Even without a threat of a drought, many investors base their investment decisions on the availability of a sufficient and secure supply of water, and the current stressed water supply situation must be negatively affecting investment in the region,” Scott said.

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