Tougher water restrictions loom

2017-07-18 13:34
Leaky taps continue to go unattended despite Umgeni Water looking to extend its water restrictions.

Leaky taps continue to go unattended despite Umgeni Water looking to extend its water restrictions. (Ian Carbutt)

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2017-07-12 14:10

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Umgeni Water has warned the 15% water restriction in Msunduzi could increase if wasteful consumer behaviour does not change.

This comes as the water utility made an application to extend the restriction on the Mgeni system for another 12 months.

“For water restrictions to increase, the situation would have to deteriorate by not getting the expected rainfall and if people don’t save,” Umgeni Water spokesperson Shami Harichunder said.

The prospects of the 15% water restriction increasing in Msunduzi in the future are extremely high because of the council’s poor water management characterised by pipe leaks and a lack of proper infrastructure maintenance.

Climate scientist at Wits University, Professor Coleen Vogel, told The Witness Msunduzi and other municipalities around the country needed to embrace a more proactive approach to water management, as droughts were likely to continue.

The Mgeni system feeds Midmar, Albert Falls, Nagle and Inanda dams, which service the Msunduzi Municipality and surrounding areas, as well as eThekwini Metro.

Umgeni said the water utility had plans in place to ensure water availability for the coming months, as forecasters anticipate below-average rainfall.

Harichunder told The Witness that there was a real chance Albert Falls, the largest dam in the Mgeni system, could run dry if restrictions were to be lifted.

For restrictions to be lifted, Harichunder said, dams in the Umgeni system would collectively have to reach 70%.

He said they were currently in the region of 60%.

Spokesperson for the Department of Water and Sanitation, Sputnik Ratau, said that water restrictions in KwaZulu-Natal had proved to be effective, but that the situation would be better if municipalities were to deal with water leakages.

“Consumers have used water more consciously and we’ve seen a lot of saving. Even though there is not much rain, the recovery [in KZN] has been much better. Last year this time KZN was the worst affected by drought, but there has been a positive development.”

Vogel said South Africa needed to better manage its water, regardless of the current drought.

“We need to see ourselves as a water-scarce country. We tend to say we need to save water and put water restrictions when there’s a drought, but it would be better if we were more proactive.”

She said climate conditions meant South Africa would likely see periods of drought and periods of abundant rainfall, and water resources need to be managed wisely during both periods.

She said a more proactive approach would entail public education about water consumption. “Businesses and big industries also need to come on board,” she said.

DA KZN caucus leader Sibongiseni Majola said Msunduzi suffered about R120 million in water losses in the last financial year, with staff shortages being a “major challenge” when it came to fixing burst pipes.

When The Witness visited the Jika Joe communal tap along Fitzsimmons Road, residents said they needed to use a spanner to close the tap.

A resident said they only close the tap once everyone is done using it.

Msunduzi spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said the city had made considerations for infrastructural needs in its current budget.

She said the city has also declared a “war on leaks” and is in the process of employing more plumbers.

She said part of the city’s awareness campaign was to highlight to residents the need to save water.

• Additional reporting by Nompilo

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  water restrictions

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