Tougher wa­ter re­stric­tions loom

15% limit may rise due to poor wa­ter man­age­ment by city

The Witness - - FRONT PAGE - KERUSHUN PILLAY • Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Nom­pilo Kunene. • kerushun.pillay@wit­ness.co.za

UM­GENI Wa­ter has warned the 15% wa­ter re­stric­tion in Msun­duzi could in­crease if waste­ful con­sumer be­hav­iour does not change.

This comes as the wa­ter util­ity made an ap­pli­ca­tion to ex­tend the re­stric­tion on the Mgeni sys­tem for an­other 12 months.

“For wa­ter re­stric­tions to in­crease, the sit­u­a­tion would have to de­te­ri­o­rate by not get­ting the ex­pected rain­fall and if peo­ple don’t save,” Um­geni Wa­ter spokesper­son Shami Harichun­der said.

The prospects of the 15% wa­ter re­stric­tion in­creas­ing in Msun­duzi in the fu­ture are ex­tremely high be­cause of the coun­cil’s poor wa­ter man­age­ment char­ac­terised by pipe leaks and a lack of proper in­fra­struc­ture main­te­nance.

Cli­mate sci­en­tist at Wits Univer­sity, Pro­fes­sor Coleen Vo­gel, told The Wit­ness Msun­duzi and other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties around the coun­try needed to em­brace a more proac­tive ap­proach to wa­ter man­age­ment, as droughts were likely to con­tinue.

The Mgeni sys­tem feeds Mid­mar, Al­bert Falls, Na­gle and Inanda dams, which ser­vice the Msun­duzi Mu­nic­i­pal­ity and sur­round­ing ar­eas, as well as eThek­wini Metro.

Um­geni said the wa­ter util­ity had plans in place to en­sure wa­ter avail­abil­ity for the com­ing months, as fore­cast­ers an­tic­i­pate be­low­av­er­age rain­fall.

Harichun­der told The Wit­ness that there was a real chance Al­bert Falls, the largest dam in the Mgeni sys­tem, could run dry if re­stric­tions were to be lifted.

For re­stric­tions to be lifted, Harichun­der said, dams in the Um­geni sys­tem would col­lec­tively have to reach 70%.

He said they were cur­rently in the re­gion of 60%.

Spokesper­son for the De­part­ment of Wa­ter and San­i­ta­tion, Sput­nik Ratau, said that wa­ter re­stric­tions in KwaZu­luNatal had proved to be ef­fec­tive, but that the sit­u­a­tion would be bet­ter if mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties were to deal with wa­ter leak­ages.

“Con­sumers have used wa­ter more con­sciously and we’ve seen a lot of sav­ing. Even though there is not much rain, the re­cov­ery [in KZN] has been much bet­ter. Last year this time KZN was the worst af­fected by drought, but there has been a pos­i­tive devel­op­ment.”

Vo­gel said South Africa needed to bet­ter man­age its wa­ter, re­gard­less of the cur­rent drought.

“We need to see our­selves as a wa­ter­scarce coun­try. We tend to say we need to save wa­ter and put wa­ter re­stric­tions when there’s a drought, but it would be bet­ter if we were more proac­tive.”

She said cli­mate con­di­tions meant South Africa would likely see pe­ri­ods of drought and pe­ri­ods of abun­dant rain­fall, and wa­ter re­sources need to be man­aged wisely dur­ing both pe­ri­ods.

She said a more proac­tive ap­proach would en­tail pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion about wa­ter con­sump­tion. “Busi­nesses and big in­dus­tries also need to come on board,” she said.

DA KZN cau­cus leader Si­bongiseni Ma­jola said Msun­duzi suf­fered about R120 mil­lion in wa­ter losses in the last fi­nan­cial year, with staff short­ages be­ing a “ma­jor chal­lenge” when it came to fix­ing burst pipes.

When The Wit­ness vis­ited the Jika Joe com­mu­nal tap along Fitzsim­mons Road, res­i­dents said they needed to use a span­ner to close the tap.

A res­i­dent said they only close the tap once every­one is done us­ing it.

Msun­duzi spokesper­son Thobeka Ma­fum­batha said the city had made con­sid­er­a­tions for in­fras­truc­tural needs in its cur­rent bud­get.

She said the city has also de­clared a “war on leaks” and is in the process of em­ploy­ing more plumbers.

She said part of the city’s aware­ness cam­paign was to high­light to res­i­dents the need to save wa­ter.

PHOTO: IAN CARBUTT

Leaky taps con­tinue to go unat­tended de­spite Um­geni Wa­ter look­ing to ex­tend its wa­ter re­stric­tions.

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