The future of water

2017-01-20 09:48
Umgeni Systems manager Seneliso Ndebele explains the function of the Midmar Water Treatment Plant on Thursday in Howick.

Umgeni Systems manager Seneliso Ndebele explains the function of the Midmar Water Treatment Plant on Thursday in Howick. (Chelsea Pieterse)

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The last two and a half years have seen the province in the grips of a “one-in-200-year drought” following the below average rainfall during 2014, 2015 and midway through 2016.

On Thursday, Umgeni Water held a press briefing and tour of the Umgeni Water Treatment Plant in Howick where the state of KwaZulu-Natal’s water, future plans and projects were discussed.

Umgeni Water planning services manager Kevin Meier said that 2014 and 2015 had the second and third lowest rainfall in the province’s history, making it “by far the worst drought Umgeni has faced since its existence”.

He said although good rains had been forecast for the next six months, Umgeni could not “bank on it” and therefore, planning for the future was essential.

Meier said although the province was receiving average rainfall, the major dams in the Mgeni system were still considered “critically low”.

He said if the Spring Grove dam near Mooi River had not been completed before the drought, Midmar dam would have “completely failed already”.

Meier added that the province would need two years of above-average rainfall to fill the Mgeni system to 100%.

He said there had been “a certain amount of apathy” from the public when it came to saving water and therefore, the 15% restrictions and curtailment of water was necessary to save water.

Umgeni Water regional manager Sunil Maharaj said people were “just not saving” and the restrictions had forced people to try and save water.

Maharaj acknowledged the frustrations of the public when the water was switched off for infrastructure repairs or to save water, and did not come back immediately to those living in higher areas. “Switching off water is not like switching off electricity,” he said.

“If the water is switched off at night, the pipe is drained of all water so when it is switched on in the morning, it has to fill from the bottom, upwards.

“It takes time to fill and all depends on the hydraulics and the water pressure. It is a process,” he said.

Umgeni Water director Cyril Gamede said at the briefing that municipalities were not investing in storing water.

“If the water is shut down for six hours, when it is turned back on, they find they have run out of water because they have not invested in storage.”

He said municipalities should have 48 hours worth of water stored for when pipes were shut down for maintenance and repairs.

Umgeni Water is working on a “universal plan” to supply water to the entire province.

Umgeni Water does not currently supply bulk potable water to Zululand, Amajuba, Umkhanyakude, Uthukela, Uthungulu and Umzinyathi.

Umgeni Water director Cyril Gamede said yesterday they were leading a project that was near completion that would see access to water for all.

The Midmar Water Treatment Plant is undergoing an upgrade which is expected to be completed in June this year.

The plant will cost R245 million and will see its capacity increase from 250 million litres a day to 375 million litres a day.

The plant will also be duplicating the raw water pipeline at a cost of R144 million and will be completed next month.

The water and sanitation department have also commissioned the uMkhomazi Water Project at a cost of R18 billion.

In a presentation by Umgeni Water planning service manager, Kevin Meier yesterday, he said that Pietermaritzburg and Durban jointly receive their water from the Mgneni system.

Meier said the long-term requirements of the two cities exceeded the yield of the system and therefore, the next resource to tap into was identified as the uMkhomazi project at Smithfield Dam, near Richmond.

The project will assist in supplying water to eThekweni and Pietermaritzburg, therefore meeting the long-term water requirements for the two areas.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  drought  |  water crisis

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