Lack of maintenance blamed for shaft pump failure at Durban Heights water plant

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The Minister of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu has blamed the lack of maintenance for the failure of a shaft pump at the Durban Heights water treatment plant. This resulted in large parts of Durban being without regular water supply in recent weeks due to the problem.

Mchunu says the major weakness of municipalities and metros is that they do not have a programme or budget to repair their aging water infrastructure.

The pump failure caused water shortages in large parts of the Durban metro during recent weeks. It has caused a decrease in the volume of water taken in at the plant which has been compounded by problems in keeping a sufficient supply of water in reservoirs in high lying areas.

Areas in the west, north and south of Durban have been without a regular water supply in recent weeks due to the breakdown of a shaft pump that supplies raw water to the Durban Heights water treatment plant.

Speaking during an inspection of the progress with repairs, Mchunu says, “It’s not a crisis of shortage of water in the dams around eThekwini or in the rivers around eThekwini which I’m saying we are dealing with by augmenting the water via uMkomaas Dam. Here I’m talking about available water and available capacity to supply which has then been disrupted by lack of proper operation and maintenance throughout the period so that people don’t suffer any shortage of water.”

Mchunu also blamed the instability at uMngeni Water for the disruption in operational work. “While the interim board was in office there was then the judgment that reinstated the old board and then they are back at work. This has had a direct impact, undesirable as it would have been on the work of the institution as a whole. It has made the institution experience what I would say a heavy turbulence.”

The minister says they need an undertaking from all municipalities and metros on how much they are going to commit to water infrastructure from this year onwards.

“All municipalities that are water authorities – none of them failed to tell us about problems of old infrastructure leakages as a result of old infrastructure and so on. But they don’t tell us about what is their reaction, what is their programme of repairing, what is their budget per year going forward to repair that and that is a major weakness which puts us as Water and Sanitation department under the bus.”

Meanwhile, the chairperson of Umgeni Water board Gabisile Mathenjwa has promised residents that water supply at the plant will be restored to normal by Wednesday.

“The pump will be fixed by Tuesday – this coming Tuesday. We’re saying this in confidence because the pump has arrived. It is back on-site; we’ve seen it. We’ve started installing the pump and we will be finished by Tuesday. So from Wednesday, we can assure our water users that the pump will be working and the water will be back to normality,” says Mathenjwa.

-Reporting by Nonhlakanipho Magwaza