Umgeni Water asks govt to lift KZN water restrictions

Durban – KwaZulu-Natal's water woes may soon officially come to an end, as bulk water supplier Umgeni Water is set to request government to lift water restrictions.

Speaking to News24 on Monday, Umgeni Water spokesperson Shami Harichunder said that, due to good rains, the biggest water system in the province, the Mgeni system, had risen to above 70%.

"This means that the joint operations committee will now write to the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry to have restrictions lifted. The need for restrictions has fallen away."

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube, however, cautioned that government due process would have to be followed in lifting the restrictions.

"The current water restrictions in our drought-affected municipalities have been duly gazetted and can only be lifted after due consultation with all the relevant stakeholders. These restrictions cannot be lifted unilaterally for any reason by any single body or entity," said Dube-Ncube.

Voicing its skepticism in a statement, Cogta said it was closely monitoring water levels, adding that "the department is aware that the recent rainfall has somewhat made a positive impact, but maybe not enough to flirt with lifting of water restrictions".

"Any decision to lift the water restrictions will be done following a due legal process and in consultation with all stakeholders in involve including the National Government."

Water restrictions of 15% have been implemented for approximately 30 months because of a rainfall deficit caused by prolonged drought.

This Mgeni system supplies an estimated four million consumers in Msunduzi, uMgungundlovu and eThekwini regions.

Because of good rains in the Midmar Dam catchments over the past two weeks, by late last week, the dam was at just over 100% full and slightly overflowing.

ALSO READ: From floods to drought, what we learned in Water Week

Harichunder said releasing the overflow from Midmar pushed up the level of Albert Falls Dam last week, thanks to the downstream link between the dams.

He said the supply of water in the Mgeni system would last the province at least two years.

If the water level went back below 70%, the operations committee would again deliberate about implementing restrictions, Harichunder said.

The Joint Operations Committee for the Mgeni system - comprising Umgeni Water, Department of Water and Sanitation, Msunduzi Local Municipality, uMgungundlovu District Municipality, eThekwini Metro and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs - met last week, saying that the removal of restrictions was imminent, Harichunder said.

Harichunder said the strong improvements in water saving and good rains from January had contributed to the positive long-term outlook.

By late last week, dam levels in the Mgeni system were: Nagle – 58%; Inanda – 64%; Mearns – 108% and Spring Grove – 101%. Mearns and Spring Grove in the upper Mgeni system are also overflowing.

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