Chelsea Pieterse
4 minute read
8 Apr 2016

A dry Midmar in November?

Chelsea Pieterse

With the alarming possibility of ­Midmar dam running dry by November this year, consumers could also be faced with a whopping 44% water tariff ­increase in coming months.

Pietermaritzburg – With the alarming possibility of ­Midmar dam running dry by November this year, consumers could also be faced with a whopping 44% water tariff ­increase in coming months.

As KwaZulu-Natal faces its most ­crippling drought in 23 years water ­restrictions and strict tariffs have been suggested as ways to conserve the ­country’s most precious resource.

In a talk by Msunduzi water services manager Mike Greatwood on Thursday at the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of ­Business it was revealed that should ­restrictions not be implemented and significant rain does not fall, Midmar dam could be empty by November 1.

In addition to this, Greatwood said that at present, Umgeni Water had proposed a 9,5% bulk increase to its customers in addition to other charges.

“They have also proposed a drought levy be added to protect their income, based on the percentage level of ­restriction,” he said.

“At present, a 15% restriction adds 95c per kilolitre to the bulk cost of water meaning an overall 27% increase.

“A 30% water restriction [from ­Umgeni Water] would push the bulk price up by 44% and while consumer tariffs are not yet final, large consumers will be affected by these increases.”

He said municipalities had rejected the levy and were still in talks over the proposed increase.

Greatwood said that if it had not been for the commission of Spring Grove dam to pump water into Midmar, Msunduzi would already be in serious trouble.

“A projected demand in 2016 shows an increase in water demand and water supply in deficit.

“There is not enough water capacity to supply the demand and this has ­co-
incided with the drought.”

He said that moves had been made to increase the deficit so there would be enough water until the completion of the Umkomaas dam project which was recently approved by government, which would be filled with water in 2024.

“There was well below average rain in 2014 and 2015, which has not been a ­happy state of affairs.

“We have been told by experts that the El Nino is diminishing and we can look forward to normal rain during the winter, however, since winter is not our rainy season, we cannot expect much.”

He said although Msunduzi had been holding its own during the drought and none of its reservoirs had run dry, ­Durban has had 35 of its reservoirs run completely dry during the drought.

“To conserve water we are looking at leaks and have pushed for our contracted plumbers to fix internal leaks in low ­income households.”

He said in Haniville, near Copesville, the area had been losing 53 kl of water an hour and that the municipality’s team had managed to fix the major leaks there bringing it down to 26 kl an hour.

“We still need to find out where that 26 kl/h is going but we have moved to three other low income areas and achieved similar results, saving us R1,2 million per year in water lost.

“We are also looking at the top 200 consumers, many of them public ­entities such as prisons, schools and hostels.”

Greatwood said the municipality was looking at a 30% increase in water ­prices for consumers who used over 100 kl a month.

Greatwood added that 18mega-litres (Ml) of water could be saved each day from fixing leaks, which amounted to at least 60% of the 15% Msunduzi was required to save by Umgeni Water.


MSUNDUZI’s top water users due to major leaks include Pietermaritzburg Prison, Imbali DUT and Sukuma ­Secondary School.

Pietermaritzburg prison is costing the Correctional Services Department R410 000 a month with its monthly ­water consumption of 47 Ml. Just under 50% of that is due to leaks.

Imbali’s DUT has a monthly water consumption of 12,3 Ml with logged ­water losses at 10,5 Ml per month ­costing the Department of Public Works R183 000 a month.

Sukuma Secondary School was found to have a monthly water ­consumption of 7 Ml.

The logged water losses ran to 4,8 Ml a month during the school holidays due to taps left running and leaking toilet cisterns. The Department of Education is paying R84 000 for Sukuma’s water bill per month.

PCB director Melanie Veness said public entities needed to monitor bills instead of just paying them. “If we look at fixing leaks at schools and other ­public entities, we could more than meet Umgeni’s requirement of saving 15%,” she said. “Water is a finite ­resource and industry has been expected to cut and as a result people are losing their jobs left, right and centre.

“Provincial government needs to get their house in order,” she said.