Water restrictions remain in KwaZulu-Natal, for now. Bulk portable water supplier Umgeni Water has however applied to Water and Sanitation Minister Gugile Nkwinti to lift the fifteen percent restrictions that have been in place since 2015.
The application comes as consistent rains earlier this year stabilised water flow in the Umgeni Water system. As KwaZulu-Natal enters its winter period, rains are becoming less frequent and dam levels are dropping slowly but steady rains earlier this year and the on-going water restrictions have put the Umgeni Water system in a good place.
Umgeni Water supplies water to about seven million people. “We were very fortunate to have had above average rainfall in February, March of this year which really came as a blessing for us and it raised the system to nearly 80 percent so on that basis we re-analysed the need for restrictions and it showed us that we can remove them. So there’s been an official application now made to the Minister of Water and Sanitation to gazette that they be removed. So we are in a much better state now. So until it’s officially done they are officially still in place,” says General Manager for Engineering and Scientific Services at Umgeni Water, Steve Gillham.
Gillham says should restrictions be dropped, consumers must continue to use water sparingly and to practice water consciousness.
“Most definitely not, I think people must realise, Cape Town has been a good example of it, that we do live in a dry country even though we get rood rains at times we go back into dry periods. We see climate change. It’s getting more frequent. As a country as a whole we use far too much water per person per day compared to the world averages. It is time that we now started changing our lifestyles and becoming more water conscious and I think the drought in KZN and Cape Town in particular has made people aware of that.”
The water utility has also been investing in infrastructure upgrades to increase supply to areas still battling to receive water consistently. With the completion of upgrades to its Midmar Water Treatment Works, an additional one and a half million people in eThekwini, uMgungundlovu and uMsunduzi will now receive greater access to water resources.
The project cost a whopping R383 million. “We’re growing this capacity by an additional 125 million litres a day and the original sizing was 250 million litres a day, now that will unlock a lot of economic potential that has been stifled by the shortage of water within the greater Pietermartizburg and Howick area. So we’re quite excited at the fact that now there will be additional water as water is the fuel to the economy. To then sustain those economic developments and improve the lives of the people,” says Acting Chief Executive at Umgeni Water, Thami Hlongwa.
He says Umgeni Water is also finalising steps to take over water services to the uThukela District. This will come into effect next month.
“We are still finalising a few issues as far as us assessing the infrastructure and these requirements. We believe the whole takeover will take 12-18 months to be finalised but we are starting effective from 1 July with Ezakeni Water that we’ll be taking over and running and then we’ll continue to take all the other water works and improve them to be at the level as far as the capacity as well as the technology is concerned.”
The announcement on the gazetting of the dropping of restrictions in KwaZulu-Natal is expected in the next few weeks.