MA­JOR PROJECT TO EN­SURE ENOUGH WA­TER FOR KZN CITIES

Project aims to en­sure enough wa­ter for at least 25 years

The Witness - - FRONT PAGE - ED­WARD WEST

DROUGHT and wa­ter re­stric­tions have cast the spot­light on the need for long­term wa­ter re­source plan­ning: the uMkhomazi Wa­ter Project aims to en­sure there is enough wa­ter for Dur­ban and Pi­eter­mar­itzburg for at least an­other 25 years.

En­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment stud­ies are al­ready un­der way.

The uMkhomazi Wa­ter Project, with is likely to cost tax­pay­ers more than R20 bil­lion, will be one of the biggest projects ever in KwaZu­luNatal.

It will bring into use new wa­ter from an un­der­utilised source, the uMkhomazi River, and be­cause it will mainly sup­ply eThek­wini, wa­ter will be re­served for growth in de­mand in the greater Pi­eter­mar­itzburg re­gion, by free­ing ca­pac­ity in the cur­rent Up­per Mgeni wa­ter sys­tem.

The main com­po­nents of the first phase of the project are ex­pected to be the Smith­field Dam, built on uMkhomazi River where it passes through Ingwe Lo­cal Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, and a 33 km tun­nel from the dam to Bay­nes­field.

At 2014 costs, the Depart­ment of Wa­ter and San­i­ta­tion’s por­tion of the project was es­ti­mated at R13 bil­lion and Um­geni Wa­ter’s por­tion was es­ti­mated to be R4 bil­lion, Um­geni Wa­ter cor­po­rate stake­holder man­ager Shami Harichun­der said in re­sponse to ques­tions from The Wit­ness.

THE drought has cast the spot­light on the need for long­term wa­ter re­source plan­ning. The uMkhomazi Wa­ter Project aims to en­sure there is enough wa­ter for Dur­ban and the Mid­lands, for at least 25 years.

Con­ser­va­tively es­ti­mated to cost more than R20 bil­lion, the pro­posed project will be one of the biggest ever in KwaZulu­Natal, and in terms of the vol­ume and the length of the tun­nel that will be built, it will be on the scale of Phase 2 of the Le­sotho High­lands Wa­ter Project.

En­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment (EIA) stud­ies are ex­pected to be com­plete by the end of March, said Um­geni Wa­ter’ cor­po­rate stake­holder man­ager Shami Harichun­der.

Sub­mis­sion of the EIA to the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs for pos­si­ble ap­proval is ex­pected early in April.

The project will bring into use new wa­ter from an un­der­utilised source, the uMkhomazi River, and be­cause it will sup­ply eThek­wini, wa­ter will be re­served for growth in de­mand in the greater Pi­eter­mar­itzburg re­gion, by free­ing ca­pac­ity in the Up­per Mgeni wa­ter sys­tem.

If EIA ap­proval is re­ceived, and the Depart­ment of Wa­ter and San­i­ta­tion gives the go­ahead, the process to con­tract an im­ple­ment­ing agent to man­age rais­ing of fi­nance, de­tailed de­sign, and con­struc­tion, is likely to be­gin.

The de­sign as­pect will prob­a­bly be­gin mid­2019.

The first phase of the project is likely to com­prise:

• Smith­field Dam, built on uMkhomazi River where it passes through the Ingwe Lo­cal Mu­nic­i­pal­ity;

• A 33 km tun­nel from this dam to Bay­nes­field;

• An emer­gency or bal­anc­ing dam at Bay­nes­field, and

• A 7,5 km raw wa­ter pipeline. This phase will be fi­nanced, con­structed and owned by the Depart­ment of Wa­ter and San­i­ta­tion.

• The first phase also in­cludes a wa­ter treat­ment plant at Bay­nes­field and a 19,4 km pipe to Cam­per­down, which will sup­ply eThek­wini’s West­ern Aqueduct Pipeline.

This in­fra­struc­ture will be fi­nanced, con­structed and owned by Um­geni Wa­ter.

Based on 2014 fig­ures for phase 1, the Depart­ment of Wa­ter and San­i­ta­tion’s por­tion was es­ti­mated to cost R13 bil­lion and Um­geni Wa­ter’s por­tion was es­ti­mated at R4 bil­lion.

“How­ever, th­ese es­ti­mates are con­ser­va­tive at present­day con­struc­tion and ma­te­rial costs. It would not be off mark to sug­gest that in 2018 the to­tal could be about R20 bil­lion,” Harichun­der said in a state­ment in re­ply to ques­tions from The Wit­ness.

Pos­si­ble sources of fund­ing for Um­geni Wa­ter’s por­tion of cost are bor­row­ing on the open mar­ket, Depart­ment of Wa­ter and San­i­ta­tion grants and Um­geni Wa­ter’s bal­ance sheet.

The bulk potable tar­iff will likely in­crease to re­cover the cap­i­tal cost of the project.

Phase 2 will com­prise a dam at Im­pen­dle, out­side Mar­itzburg, but this seg­ment is only ex­pected to be re­quired from about 2050.

The tun­nel will take about five years to con­struct.

The re­cent drought and 15% wa­ter re­stric­tions that re­main place af­ter more than two years, have given some im­pe­tus on the need to es­tab­lish ad­di­tional bulk wa­ter sources, said Harichun­der.

Stud­ies show the cur­rent wa­ter sys­tem will becme in­suf­fi­cient in the years ahead, and the pro­posal to work on the uMkhomazi project was taken af­ter Um­geni stud­ied three pos­si­ble in­ter­ven­tions: wa­ter re­use, sea­wa­ter de­sali­na­tion, and a con­ven­tional wa­ter stor­age, treat­ment and sup­ply scheme.

If re­use had been im­ple­mented as an op­tion, it would have pro­duced 60100 mil­lion litres per day, but only as an in­terim so­lu­tion.

How­ever, the sys­tem would likely be in deficit again by 2019, it suf­fered from high op­er­a­tional costs and also had poor pub­lic per­cep­tions of wa­ter orig­i­na­tion and qual­ity.

Build­ing two 150 mil­lion litres of wa­ter a day de­sali­na­tion plants would have also seen the sys­tem in deficit again by 2023, said Harichun­der.

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