Water rationing for some Durban residents to start on Monday

April floods damaged pipelines and repairs could take up to a year

Residents are urged not to stockpile water to avoid collapsing the already constrained system. Stock photo.
Residents are urged not to stockpile water to avoid collapsing the already constrained system. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Weerapat Kiatdumrong

Residents in areas supplied by the Durban Heights water treatment plant face water rationing from Monday, which could last up to a year, due to  shortages that continue to plague KwaZulu-Natal after extensive flooding in April.

On Thursday, the eThekwini municipality said water rationing had become necessary due to reduced water supply from the plant.

The shortfall will remain for the next 10 to 12 months as a result of Umgeni Water being unable to receive adequate raw water from the Nagle Dam after two raw water pipelines were damaged during the floods.

“While Umgeni Water continues to make progress in providing full contracted volumes of drinking water to eThekwini, a shortfall remains and will be eradicated when the damaged pipelines are repaired and recommissioned,” the municipality and Umgeni Water said.

Repairs to the pipes are expected to be completed by June 2023.

Two pipelines were damaged in the floods in Wushini, Inanda. These pipelines and two others transport raw water to the Durban Heights water treatment plant. The two undamaged pipelines continue to transfer water to the plant.

There is now a deficit in raw water supply to the plant and consequently reduced production and supply of potable water (drinking water). The shortfall amounts to, on average, between 40-million and 50-million litres per day.

“To effectively manage this shortfall so that affected areas have access to water for some parts of the day, eThekwini has introduced a system of rotational supply so that distribution is balanced on an equitable basis. This will remain in place until repairs of the pipelines are completed.”

Umgeni Water said the Pietermaritzburg high court’s acceptance of a consent order opened the way for repair work on reservoir three at the Durban Heights plant.

“If all goes according to schedule, the work on reservoir three will be completed by November 2022, after which 340-million litres of storage space will become available."

The contractor to repair the two damaged pipelines has been appointed and is set to start work next week.

The two entities appealed for co-operation and support from all stakeholders “to ensure that some water is available to consumers who are supplied by reservoirs fed from the Durban Heights water treatment plant”.

To demonstrate the seriousness of how the water crisis was being handled, a "war room" was established at the request of water and sanitation minister Senzo Mchunu.

“The war room is headed by eThekwini water and sanitation and has been operating since April. It meets daily to receive reports on progress, oversee progress and institute interventions where required so that access to water is available and improved.”

In its eight weeks of its existence, the war room “has overseen deployment of vitally needed water tankers, installation of static water tanks in several areas and facilitated funding allocation for urgent restoration work”.

“The war room has endorsed the extension of a strategy that will ensure affected communities have access to water through a rotational supply system. This will be implemented from Monday, June 20 and entrench equal distribution of available water in a switch-on and switch-off basis, rotating from one to the other.

“Because water rationing is a planned event, tankers will not be dispatched to cover the rationing period. They will only be dispatched to areas experiencing outages, as opposed to rationing.”

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