Water and Sanitation on Water Supply Disruptions in eThekwini

Joint media statement by the Department of Water and Sanitation, eThekwini Municipality and uMngeni-uThukela Water Board

Many residents of eThekwini have been experiencing increasingly frequent and lengthy interruptions to their water supply. The purpose of this media statement is to explain the multiple underlying causes of these interruptions and to inform the public of what is being done by the national Department of Water and Sanitation, the uMngeni-uThukela Water Board, and eThekwini Municipality to address these interruptions.

The first root cause of the problem is that the demand for treated water in eThekwini is exceeding the available supply of treated water. eThekwini buys most of its treated water from the Umgeni-uThukela Water Board, which abstracts raw water from the uMngeni Water Supply System (uMWS) and treats it so that it meets drinking water quality standards. Umgeni-uThukela Water Board stores the treated water in bulk storage reservoirs and supplies it into eThekwini Municipality reservoirs. From there the water is pumped and gravity-fed to households.

To ensure a continuous supply of water to users even in times of drought, DWS sets a limit on the amount of raw water that Umgeni-uThukela Water Board can abstract from the uMWS. Dam storage levels can fall rapidly when there is a drought, and it would therefore be irresponsible to raise the abstraction limit when the dams are full. The amount of water in the uMWS therefore puts a limit on the amount of water that can be supplied to residents in eThekwini.

Demand for water in eThekwini has grown rapidly, largely due to population growth, and partly due to increasing leaks in the Municipality’s water distribution systems. The planners in DWS anticipated this growth in demand and put in place plans to transfer water from the uMkhomazi River to augment the uMWS, through the Umkhomazi Water Project, as well as a project to raise the wall of the Hazelmere Dam.

The raising of the Hazelmere Dam wall was completed in 2023 and has doubled the amount of water that can be stored in the Dam at a cost of R820 million. To enable this additional stored water to be treated, Umgeni-uThukela has completed a project to increase the capacity of the Hazelmere Water Treatment Works from 55 to 75 ML per day, at a cost of R135 million. It will be further increasing the capacity of the treatment works to 90ML per day within the next three years, at a cost of R25 million.

The Umkhomazi Water Project consists of an 81m high dam at Smithfield on the uMkhomazi River (with gross storage capacity of 251 million m3), a 33km, a 3.5m diameter tunnel from Smithfield dam to the uMlaza River Valley, and a 5.1km, 2.6m diameter gravity bulk pipeline connecting the tunnel to the Baynesfield Water Treatment Works (WTW). This part of the project will be funded and implemented by the Trans Caledon Water Authority (TCTA), an entity of DWS. The Umkhomazi Water project will result in a 55% increase in the amount of available water in the uMWS.

While the Umkhomazi Water Project is the most appropriate and cost-effective solution to the challenge of providing more water to eThekwini and surrounding municipalities, it is expensive (approximately R28 billion for the raw water supply component) and concerns about its affordability in terms of the tariffs that would have to be charged to the residents of eThekwini resulted in delays in the start of the project.

This affordability problem was resolved in 2023 with the approval by National Treasury of a blended finance solution for the funding of the project. This blended finance solution was facilitated by the Infrastructure Fund, a government entity created by President Ramaphosa to assist government departments to put in place blended finance projects. The financial solution is for 25% of the cost of the project to be funded through a grant from National Treasury, a further 25% to be funded through an interest-free loan from National Treasury to the TCTA, and the remaining 50% to be raised on the financial markets by the TCTA.

Since this blended finance arrangement was approved by National Treasury, the TCTA and the Umgeni-uThukela Water Board have been engaging with eThekwini and adjacent municipalities regarding the entering into of long-term water supply agreements, which are required in order for finance to be raised for the project. These agreements have required public consultation processes, which have now been concluded, and the approval of the water supply agreement is on the agenda of the next meeting of the eThekwini Council later this month.

Umgeni-uThukela Water Board is already exceeding its abstraction limit from the uMWS. It will only be possible for the Water Board to increase its abstraction of water from the uMWS after the Umkhomazi Water Project comes online (projected for 2030).

In the meantime, in addition to the Umkhomazi Water Project, the shortage of treated water in eThekwini must be addressed by the Municipality by reducing non- revenue water in its water distribution system and by water users in the Municipality using water more sparingly to reduce the average consumption of water per capita per day. The 2023 DWS No Drop audit (which was released by DWS in December 2023) found this to be 298 l/c/d, compared to the international average of 173 l/c/d. It also found that non-revenue water increased from 37% in 2013 to 58% in 2023. The Municipality is also working on other measures to increase the supply of water, including groundwater, water re-use and desalination.

eThekwini Municipality is implementing a range of interventions to drastically reduce its non-revenue water. Firstly, it is implementing a pipeline replacement programme. A number of projects under this programme are in the final phases of procurement. This programme is scheduled to commence by the end of March 2024. The programme will be ongoing for the foreseeable future.

Secondly, the Municipality is implementing projects to replace parts of its old infrastructure on which high levels of water losses are being experienced, including replacing pumping mains on major water distribution systems such as the Tongaat, Waterloo, Grange and Hazelmere water distribution systems.  The Municipality has budgeted approximately R1 billion per annum for these projects, which will continue every year for the foreseeable future. Some of these projects started in the 2022/23 municipal financial year. The projects are being funded from the infrastructure levy which was recently introduced by the Municipality.  The Municipality has also constructed 12 new reservoirs in the past two years to the value R500m, to enhance water supply.

Thirdly, it is implementing an active leak detection and repair programme. Procurement processes for a performance-based contract to detect and repair leaks are currently being concluded and it is envisaged that the contract will commence at the beginning of April 2024. This contract will be funded from the savings resulting from reducing leaks. This is in addition to an existing contract to detect leaks using satellite imagery.

Fourthly, the Municipality is implementing a pressure management programme through installing 108 pressure management valves, in addition to the 3000 that already exist. The procurement process for the pressure management valves has been finalized and installation of the valves will commence in March 2024. The purpose of this programme is to reduce water pressures in water distribution systems which reduces the frequency of pipe bursts and extends the useful life of the infrastructure. It also reduces the amount of water lost through leaks in the system. In addition, the programme involves installing flow restrictors on all meters to manage demand. This will also address demand fluctuations caused by static tanks connected to the water supply system. These static tanks result in unequal access to available water and are discouraged by the municipality.

Fifthly, the Municipality is implementing a revenue enhancement programme, which includes dysfunctional meter replacement, introducing technology to increase the accuracy of meter reading, and improved billing and debtor management. This programme started in November 2023 and will be implemented on an ongoing basis until substantial reductions in non-revenue water are achieved.

Sixthly, the Municipality is implementing a Community Education Programme to increase awareness of the need to reduce the average consumption of water per person per day and to encourage people to pay for the water they consume.

In addition to reducing losses and improving water-use efficiency, the Municipality is addressing a range of other challenges. To address the problem of encroachment of informal settlements on pipeline servitudes, the Municipality is embarking on a programme to strengthen its enforcement of bylaws. This will enable access for maintenance and repair work to pipelines.  To address the problem of illegal connections, the Municipality is improving these connections to reduce leaks associated with them and then formalising the connections by installing meters.

To address the impact of vandalism and theft of water infrastructure on the reliability of supply to residents, the Municipality is replacing metal fittings with plastic fittings where possible and deploying additional security guards to critical infrastructure such as storage reservoirs and pump stations. The Municipality is also appealing to communities to assist it to look after municipal infrastructure, which in turn will reduce water supply disruptions.

To improve the assurance of supply, the Municipality is finalising procurement for a R1.2b project to replace the aged and partially functional southern aqueduct, which is the main bulk supply pipeline from Durban Heights Water Treatment Works to Umlazi and surrounding areas. The project will result in an increase in the adequacy and reliability of water supply to these areas. Construction is due to commence in April 2024. 

In addition, the Municipality has implemented a project of approximately R1 billion to build a new aqueduct to supply water from the Durban Heights Water Treatment Works to northern areas of the City, including Verulam and Phoenix. The project has been completed and is currently being commissioned. The first phase of the commissioning will occur on 15 February 2024 and the entire aqueduct will have been commissioned by November this year.

An additional initiative of the City to increase the availability of water is the introduction of additional water reuse public private partnership projects for the northern and KwaMashu wastewater treatment works. The City already has one water reuse public private partnership in operation at the southern wastewater treatment works, which is supplying water to industries in the area, which in turn reduces the demand for potable water. Procurement will commence by the end of February 2024 for the other water reuse projects.

The Municipality’s water and sanitation infrastructure has been badly damaged by floods in recent years, which has been a contributing factor to water supply disruptions. The Municipality is utilizing national flood damage repair grants and its own allocated budget to carry out repair work. To date, the Municipality has spent approximately R300 million on the repair of water infrastructure damaged in the April 2022 floods. The floods which occurred earlier this month also caused considerable damage to water infrastructure and resulted in disrupted supply to many areas. Approximately 90% of the required repair work resulting from the recent floods has been completed.

Work is currently underway to repair sections of the pumping main pipeline to Tongaat South Reservoir, which were washed away, and which resulted in major water supply disruptions in Tongaat. This work is due to be completed this weekend.  In addition, temporary supply measures were put in place which have enabled residents of Tongaat to start receiving intermittent supply.

As in other areas of the country, loadshedding has a substantial impact on water supply in eThekwini. To address this problem, the Municipality has been installing standby generators at strategic pumping stations. More than R100 million has been spent to date on approximately 30 standby generators. The process of installing standby generators started in the 2021/22 financial year and is planned to be completed by the 2025/26 financial year.

The Ntuzuma water supply system has been experiencing challenges as a result of the damage to the pumpstation after it caught fire. Currently, this pumpstation is operating at 50 percent capacity. The Municipality will be upgrading the entire pumpstation at a cost of R35 million. The project will commence in March this year and is planned to be completed by the 2025/26 financial year. This project will start improving water supply to Inanda, Lindelani and KwaMashu by July 2024.

As a result of the recent heavy rains, areas supplied by the Hazelmere Water Treatment Works experienced water outages due to high turbidity in the raw water supply. This affected areas such as Waterloo, Ottawa, Parkgate and Redcliffe. Subsequently, there was a burst rising main from Hazelmere to the Grange Reservoir which interrupted water supply to the Redcliffe and Buffelsdraai areas. Repairs to this system have been completed and water supply was restored on Tuesday this week. 

For the past three months, water supply disruptions have also occurred in Verulam, oThongathi and Phoenix, as a result of the old Northern Aqueduct not performing optimally. As indicated above, the new northern aqueduct is currently being commissioned, and this will provide a permanent solution to the poor performance of the old Northern Aqueduct. In the meantime, the Municipality has been implementing various interventions to improve the performance of the old aqueduct, including reducing leaks and replacing defective air valves. These interventions are expected to be completed in the second week of February 2024. However, some areas may have their water supply restored earlier as interventions are progressing. The commissioning of the first phase of the new aqueduct on 15 February 2024 will also start resulting in improvements in supply to these areas.

In the KwaXimba area, the supply is constrained by the limited size of the bulk pipeline. To address this situation, the Municipality has begun with the upgrade of the trunk main from Cato Ridge Reservoir to the KwaXimba area. This is being done by internal construction teams and is due to be completed by December this year.

To provide additional potable water, particularly in rural communities, the Municipality is investing in boreholes as another source of water supply in these areas. The Municipality is currently drilling 40 boreholes in 21 rural wards. To date, 20 boreholes have been drilled and will be commissioned following water quality testing.  Some of these boreholes will start providing water from the beginning of February 2024, including in Trenance Park.

While all these interventions are being implemented, the Municipality is ensuring that communities continue to receive water through water tankers. Last year the Municipality procured an additional 55 new water tankers. An additional 100 new water tankers will be delivered before the end of May 2024. In the meantime, since the fleet is not coping with the current demand, the Municipality is finalising the process of hiring additional water tankers.

In the context of the damage and impact of flooding, the Municipality is embarking on an accelerated procurement programme to expedite all its procurement processes related to restoring water supply.

The uMngeni-uThukela Water Board has a capital works programme to augment its infrastructure and increase its supply capacity to eThekwini. The uMngeni-uThukela Water Board is raising all of the funding for its capital works programme on the financial markets. 

The first main component of this programme is the bulk treated water component of the Umkhomazi Water Project, which comprises the construction of the Baynesfield Water Treatment Works in the uMlaza River and a 21.3km, 2.7m diameter, gravity pipeline from the Baynesfield WTW to Umlaas Road. The treated water pipeline will tie into the Western Bypass at Umlaas Road. This bulk treated water component will cost approximately R7 billion and is currently in the design phase. It is being timed to be completed before the completion of the Umkhomazi Dam and related works. 

The second main component of this programme is the construction of a the Ngwadini Dam and 100 Ml/d water treatment plant to abstract water from the lower end of the Mkhomazi River to augment supply to eThekwini. Construction of the dam has commenced and the project due to be completed by 2026 at a cost of R6.1 billion.

Other components of the uMngeni-uThukela Water capital works progamme include major infrastructure rehabilitation projects, including the Durban Heights Water Treatment Works and the Nagle Aqueduct, at a cost of approximately R800 million. These projects are in the implementation phase and are due to be completed by 2026. These projects will increase the reliability of supply of treated water from the Water Board to the Municipality.

The uMngeni-uThukela Water Board has completed the reconstruction of its two raw water aqueducts which were damaged during the April 2022 floods, which supply the Durban Heights Water Treatment Works. This repair work cost R800 million.

The eThekwini Municipality is being supported the City Support Programme in National Treasury, which has allocated a team of experts to advise the Municipality on its water and sanitation turnaround strategy.  The operational teams of Umgeni-uThukela Water Board also provide support to the Municipality.

In conclusion, the national Department of Water and Sanitation and its entities, the Umgeni-uThukela Water Board and the TCTA, and the eThekwini Municipality have a range of interventions in place to address both the root causes of the water supply shortages in eThekwini and the immediate challenges being faced in particular areas. The two spheres of government agree on what needs to be done by whom to address the problems and are cooperating in the implementation of the interventions. The provincial government will also be engaged to intensify its participation in all this work. But government cannot solve the problems alone, it also needs to partner with civil society, business, and the residents of the City, whose assistance is required with reporting of leaks and reducing the average consumption of water per capita per day.

The Municipality commits itself to maintain regular communication with residents, particularly those communities most affected by supply disruptions. The implementation of all this work will be regularly monitored by the Director General of DWS, the Municipal Manager the Chief Executive of Umgeni-uThukela Water Board and there will be regular updates to the media on progress.

For more information contact:
Wisane Mavasa
Spokesperson for the Department of Water and Sanitation
Cell: 060 561 8935

Siyabonga Maphumulo
Spokesperson for Umngeni-Uthukela Water
Cell: 082 303 4243 

Mandla Nsele
eThekwini Deputy Head of Communication
Cell: 083 308 2639

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