Good rains may end water curbs

City residents braved the rain on Thursday, arming themselves with umbrellas and warm clothes in a bid to stay dry.
City residents braved the rain on Thursday, arming themselves with umbrellas and warm clothes in a bid to stay dry.
Ian Carbutt

Water restrictions set by Umgeni Water almost three years ago are expected to be lifted as soon as May.

With consistent rain over the last few weeks and the overflowing of Midmar Dam, the entire Mgeni system water level is sitting at 69%. Umgeni Water spokesperson Shami Harichunder said on Thursday that Midmar was 100,69% and Albert Falls was for the first time in a while, just over 30% full.

“There has been significant improvement over the past two weeks,” said Harichunder. “The entire Mgeni system is at 69% and is increasing by one percent every week.

“We need water levels to reach 70% in order to lift the water restrictions,” said Harichunder.

“We are convinced that by May, water restrictions will be lifted.”

He said once the system reached 70%, an application will be made to the Department of Water and Sanitation for the 15% mandatory water restrictions in the Mgeni system to be lifted.

“As a result of good rains in the catchments of Midmar Dam over the past two weeks, this dam is presently [Thursday] at 100,69% and overflowing.”

He said the release and overflow have pushed up the level of downstream Albert Falls Dam to 32%.

The Joint Operations Committee for the Mgeni system, made up of Umgeni Water, Department of Water and Sanitation, Msunduzi Municipality, uMgungundlovu District Municipality, eThekwini Metro and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, met on Thursday to discuss the restrictions.

“There was consensus ... that water resources have improved significantly in the Mgeni system due to good January-February-March 2018 rains. The Mgeni system has been in water restrictions of 15% for around 30 months. The system supplies an estimated four million consumers in Msunduzi, uMgungundlovu and eThekwini regions.

“We appeal to the public to bear with us. We need that one percent more and we will be out of this,” he said.

University of KwaZulu-Natal agrometeorology professor Mike Savage said Pietermaritzburg had received 24 mm of rain by 2 pm on Thursday, adding that the rain could continue on Saturday.

He said the rain was not high intensity, meaning it was slow and consistent. “It is enough to drain into the soil but not enough to saturate it and cause flooding.”

The UKZN’s Dr Allistaire Clulow said “the consistent rain is what we need. There is now a chance for the rain to soak into the soil and replenish the ground water.”

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said on Thursday that there had been no reports of localised flooding in Pietermaritzburg but disaster management was on standby.

KZN suffered a crippling drought throughout 2015 and 2016 due to the El Niño event.

In 2015, it was revealed that Midmar Dam levels had not been so low since 1983, however, for the first time in several years, the dam is now overflowing.

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