Cape Town - There is sufficient water "capacity" for the state-owned power supplier Eskom to commission four of its units at the coal-fired power station Medupi in Limpopo, says the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority.
According to the authority's corporate plan - which is responsible for much of South Africa's water infrastructure in addition to the tunnel which runs from the Lesotho Highland scheme - the existing water pipeline has been "debottlenecked" through "cross connection with the new pipeline under construction".
MPs serving on the water and sanitation portfolio committee of parliament were addressed by TCTA executives including chief executive James Ndlovu last week.
In a document Ndlovu gave to MPs, it reported progress on the Mokolo and Crocodile River "water augmentation project" under its aegis.
Describing it as "a current" project, it includes a pump station and 43km of pipeline delivering 30 million cubic meters of water per year from the Mokolo "and tying into existing infrastructure supplying Exxaro's Grootegeluk Mine, Eskom's Matimba power station and the Lephalale local municipality".
The TCTA reported that the project was required "mainly to supply water to... Medupi".
As of January 2015, 42.7km of the 43km pipeline was laid, reported the TCTA. "The pipeline has been pressure tested up to 22km," said the authority.
The TCTA, however, acknowledged that the project was 18 months behind schedule "due to construction delays which arose from industrial action, pipe delivery, slow construction progress by (the) contractor and inclement weather".
Also in March 2014, heavy rains were experienced in Lephalale which resulted in flooding and damage to construction works.
Despite the delays the project "is able to provide the required water to Eskom and (the) Lephalale area".
The TCTA also noted that it regarded another leg of the project - the building of another 160km pipeline to transfer water from the Crocodile River to the Lephalale area to exploit the coal resources of the Waterberg "as urgent".
The authority noted that the second leg of the water transfer system had been postponed owing to the department of energy's integrated resource plan, but water was urgently needed for Matimba, Medupi and various independent power producers in the area.
"Future coal demands now require the implementation of (the second pipeline)... urgently," the authority reported.
It is envisaged that a third coal-fired station could be built in Limpopo by the private sector.
According to the TCTA, the total budget of the first water transfer phase will be R2.1bn by the end of 2019. The second phase is expected to cost R12bn by 2023.
Last month Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa told MPs in the national council of provinces that Eskom had taken steps to improve the maintenance of its power stations and barring any unexpected delays Medupi's first unit - unit six - was due to provide full power to the grid by the middle of the year.