Water level improves, but restrictions still in place due to concerns

A man collects fresh drinking flowing out of the road in Boshoff street on Monday.
A man collects fresh drinking flowing out of the road in Boshoff street on Monday.
Nhlanhla Nkosi

The water level in the Mgeni System has continued to rise and is now at 75%, with more good rains expected for April and May this year.

However, the 15% water restrictions remain in place for now.

The area’s spring and summer rain for 2017 and 2018 now exceeds above average rainfall, and is a relief from the minimal rain received during 2016 and through the first half of last year.

Umgeni Water spokesperson Shami Harichunder said the province’s dry season usually starts in May.

He said compared with a year ago, all the dams within the Mgeni system “are at increased levels”.

However, there are still areas of concern within the Mgeni System, he said.

“While there has been steady improvement in the level of Albert Falls Dam over the past four weeks, this dam continues to remain of concern to Umgeni Water and the Mgeni System Joint Operations Committee.”

He said rain in the Albert Falls Dam water catchment, as well as water released from Midmar Dam, has seen Albert Falls’ level increase at one percent per week.

Harichunder said the inadequate water resources in Albert Falls Dam have had a severe impact on Nagle Dam, which is largely dependent on Albert Falls.

“The critical state of water resources in Albert Falls Dam has left Umgeni Water with no option but to pump, at significant cost, from Inanda Dam in order to augment supply from the upper Mgeni System to Durban Heights Water Treatment Plant.

“Albert Falls Dam supplies large parts of the Durban region, and the amount of water in this dam would not have been sufficient to meet the full demand of these areas.

“Albert Falls Dam has to be at a level of at least 70% to meet the full demand of its supply areas and without costly augmentation from Inanda Dam.”

He said the mandatory water restrictions of 15% will remain in place in the “entire supply areas of the Mgeni system, which comprise almost 80% of the eThekwini region, all of uMgungundlovu and all of Pietermaritzburg”.

The restrictions were first published in the Government Gazette in March 2016 and later extended for a year in August 2017.

“Publication in the Government Gazette means that the restrictions, 15% reduction in municipal use and 50% reduction in irrigation, are legally binding, are still applicable and have to be met,” he said.

“The Mgeni System has been in a state of water shortages since 2015 following a protracted period of below-average rainfall caused by the El Nino effect.”

The multi-stakeholder Mgeni System Joint Operations Committee monitors and manages water resources in the Mgeni System.

It comprises the Department of Water and Sanitation, KZN Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Msunduzi Municipality, uMgungundlovu District Municipality, Ugu District Municipality, eThekwini Metro, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Umgeni Water and the irrigation sector.

“The Mgeni System has to have a level of at least 70% to ensure sustainable water supply at pre-drought demand levels. It is at 75%, and this level will need to be maintained until May 2018 ...”

He said Umgeni Water and the Department of Water and Sanitation will then analyse the system. “Maintaining the level until May and beyond will depend on the sparing use of water, elimination of wastage and meeting the 15% water savings requirement. In essence, a culture of conservation will ensure water lasts until the next rains and when dams begin filling again.

“Therefore, the 2018/19 rainfall season will be important in terms of the amount of rainfall received,” he said.

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