Thabiso Goba
3 minute read
23 Jun 2022

Durban’s water to flow by Christmas

Thabiso Goba

KwaZulu-Natal bulk water supplier, Umgeni Water, says it will take over R850 million and months of work to address Durban’s water woes.

KwaZulu-Natal bulk water supplier, Umgeni Water, says it will take over R850 million to address Durban’s water woes. The utility said Durban residents should not expect normal running water before Christmas.

This week the eThekwini Municipality began rotational water rationing for many parts of Durban to manage water scarcity in the city.

The shortage resulted from the extensive damage to two of four Umgeni Water’s pipelines that convey raw water from Nagle Dam to the Durban Heights Water Treatment Plant.

This was caused by the April floods, which wreaked havoc on the water and sanitation infrastructure across eThekwini.

Umgeni Water has estimated it will cost R850 million to repair the damaged pipelines.
the Durban Heights Water Treatment Plant
Water storage unit, Reservoir 3 at the Durban Heights Water Treatment Plant is set to be commissioned by December. The reservoir holds 340 megalitres of water.PHOTO: THABISO GOBA

The two remaining pipelines were still conveying raw water to the Durban Heights treatment plant; however, even at maximum capacity they could not reach the contracted figure of 540 megalitres of water a day that Umgeni has to deliver to eThekwini.

The Durban Heights plant supplies water to most areas of Durban. However, there are areas that get water from other plants that have been spared from the rationing.

Working on two damaged pipelines

On Wednesday, chairperson of the Umgeni Water board, Gabsie Mathenjwa, briefed the media on the latest measures that the company was taking to repair the damaged infrastructure.

Mathenjwa said a contractor had already begun work on fixing the two damaged pipelines.

She said the cost to fix the pipelines was estimated at R850 million, but that was subject to change depending on a variety of factors.

Mathenjwa said Umgeni’s infrastructure was insured so the money used for the project would be claimed from their insurance service provider.

Should there be a deficit, Mathenjwa said, Umgeni would apply for National Treasury’s flood relief to cover it.

Six areas damaged

She explained that there were six damaged spots identified by engineers near the Inanda Dam which were a considerable distance from each other.

The pipelines, which run 10 metres underground, were damaged by falling rocks during the flooding and landslides. Some of the water pipes were also uprooted.

Mathenjwa said the engineers first needed to clear the heavy rocks and debris before moving the large metal pipes and starting the reinstallation of the pipelines.

“We have hired an independent monitoring team which will be conducting assessments on the progress of the work,” said Mathenjwa.

She said aqueduct 1 (one of the pipelines) was expected to be commissioned in December.

“When this occurs, an additional 40 megalitres per day of drinking water will be brought into the system for distribution to eThekwini Municipality.

“What this means is that Umgeni will be supplying eThekwini 540 megal itres per day, which will be in line with the contracted amount,” she said.

Long wait for Aqueduct 2

Aqueduct 2, however, was estimated to be in operation only by June 2023.

Following the raw water deficit, Umgeni took the decision of using three water shaft pumps to convey water from Inanda Dam to the Durban Heights Plant.

On June 16, Umgeni commissioned a fourth shaft pump; however, Mathenjwa said it could only be used five times a week for safety reasons.

“The impact of this is that supply to eThekwini will increase by making more water available. The other upside is that it will assist in keeping Reservoir 2 (a storage unit) consistently at four metres or more, in this way improving the head pressure [of the] supply to high-lying areas,” said Mathenjwa.

Work restarts on reservoir lining

She also confirmed the appointment of a contractor to fix the lining on the Durban Heights plant’s Reservoir 3, which has been decommissioned for decades, following an eight-month court battle over the tender.

Reservoir 3 has a capacity to hold 340 megalitres, which would also increase Umgeni’s storage capacity.

The project was expected to take five months at a cost of R51 million, said Mathenjwa.