Talks are not enough to bring solutions to water supply problems - Says DA KwaZulu-Natal Leader FRANCOIS RODGERS

Wednesday, January 31, 2024
 – DA KwaZulu-Natal Leader Francois Rodgers says “talks” were not enough to bring solutions to the water crisis in Durban.

He was speaking at a media briefing after the party met the Umngeni-uThukela Water Board officials over the crisis affecting eThekwini on Tuesday. DA shadow minister and deputy shadow minister for Water and Sanitation Leon Basson and Stephen Moore were also part of the meeting.

The water crisis in eThekwini Municipality affects the northern areas of Durban — including uMhlanga, Phoenix, Tongaat and Verulam — as they experience frequent and lengthy interruptions to their water supply.

Umngeni-uThukela Water board spokesperson Siyabonga Maphumulo confirmed the meeting with the DA.

He said the water entity provided details on how its systems work and emphasised that it had sufficient water to provide eThekwini residents.

eThekwini buys most of its treated water from the Umgeni-uThukela Water Board, which abstracts raw water from the uMngeni Water Supply System (uMWS) and treats it so that it meets drinking water quality standards.

On Saturday, the municipality issued a statement saying that it was aware of the areas in the north that are experiencing water outages or intermittent water supply.

The city said its technical teams were trying their level best to increase water flow on the northern aqueduct, which was not performing optimally. The low pressure on the trunk main affected efficient flows into the Durban North, Virginia, Sunningdale, uMhlanga, Phoenix and Verulam reservoirs.

The city said replacement of damaged air valves was also under way.

Last week, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and eThekwini Municipality met with representatives from the Durban northern areas that have been affected by prolonged water outages. These are Verulam, Phoenix Zwelisha, Bester, Verulam and oThongathi.

SAHRC provincial manager Pavershree Padayachee said at the meeting it was resolved that a war room should be set up and meet on Wednesdays and Fridays, and the commission will be sitting in those meetings.

We have to bear in mind that some of the challenges will require short- and long-term measures.

The National Department of Water and Sanitation, the uMngeni-uThukela Water Board, and eThekwini Municipality also met last week to address the interruptions.

At that meeting it was revealed that the root cause of the problem was that the demand for treated water in eThekwini exceeded the available supply of treated water.

According to a joint statement by uMngeni-uThukela Water Board and eThekwini Municipality, demand for water in eThekwini had grown rapidly, largely due to population growth, and partly due to increasing leaks in the municipality’s water distribution systems.

eThekwini Municipality is implementing a range of interventions to drastically reduce its non-revenue water. Firstly, it is implementing a pipeline replacement programme.

“A number of projects under this programme are in the final phases of procurement. This programme is scheduled to commence by the end of March 2024. The programme will be ongoing for the foreseeable future,” read the statement.

The municipality said it was also implementing projects to replace parts of its old infrastructure on which high levels of water losses are being experienced, including replacing pumping mains on major water distribution systems such as the Tongaat, Waterloo, Grange and Hazelmere water distribution systems.

Water-related projects were expected to begin in February, March and April. The entire Ntuzuma pump station will be upgraded at a cost of R35 million.

“The project will commence in March this year and is planned to be completed by the 2025/26 financial year. This project will start improving water supply to Inanda, Lindelani and KwaMashu by July 2024.”

For the past three months, water supply disruptions have also occurred in Verulam, oThongathi and Phoenix as a result of the old northern aqueduct not performing optimally.

The municipality said it has been implementing various interventions to improve the performance of the old aqueduct, including reducing leaks and replacing defective air valves.

These interventions on the northern aqueduct are expected to be completed in the second week of February 2024.

However, according to Rodgers, turnaround strategies and talks have never been fruitful till this point.

“We have heard of all these interventions from the city, but where are we now? We are in a worse situation; it’s the worst it’s ever been,” he said.

“The biggest part of the problem is the northern aqueduct, which is the responsibility of the city and that project is expected to be completed in the first or second week of February. That will be the biggest judge, if that aqueduct is up and running then it will solve the majority of the water problems in the northern areas.”

Rodgers said to have meetings just for the sake of having meetings didn’t impress him; what was needed was an action plan with timeframes that can be monitored.

“But if they believe war rooms are an efficient way to communicate with the community, that’s [fine], but only time will tell if it is effective.”

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