MAJOR PROJECT TO ENSURE ENOUGH WATER FOR KZN CITIES
Project aims to ensure enough water for at least 25 years
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.