Coast KZN

14 Feb 2018

Councils not saving enough water

Mphathi Nxumalo (Daily News) Picture: Umgeni Water's assistant dam superintendent David Phakamile Klaas on a tour of the Albert Falls dam in Pietermarizburg with the media. The dam's level has dropped to 23%. (Photo: Motshwari Mofokeng - African News Agency (ANA))

Municipalities are falling short when it comes to saving water, said Steve Gillham, general manager engineering and scientific services at Umgeni Water.

He was speaking at a media visit to the Albert Falls Dam on Tuesday. The dam is critically low, at 23% capacity, according to the Umgeni Water dam level report.

Gillham said it also had the biggest capacity in the province with a 290 million cubic litres capacity, servicing about six million people.

Umgeni Water, which services district municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal, was expecting these municipalities to save about 15% on water usage but, Gillham said, they were only saving about 5%.

“When we initially introduced restrictions, people started using more water. So when we realised appealing to people’s good was not going to save any water, we then started to curtail it at treatment plants,” he said.

Gillham said they started giving municipalities less water and they had to make do with what they received.

He said some of the dams would have run dry had they not started managing the amount of water distributed to areas that needed it the most.

He said the dams run by the water utility were at 63% storage capacity, which was not ideal. This was, however, 13% higher than at the same time last year, he said.

Gillham said if the need arose, they would have to pump water from the Umgeni River to the Mooi River Dam.

It had a capacity of pumping 380 megalitres a day, which would use 4.5megawatts of electricity and cost about R40 million a day.

Pumping 250 megalitres of water from the Inanda Dam also cost about R40m a day. It was more expensive because they had to pump water against the force of gravity to other places, he said.

“It is this type of pumping water and forcing people to save water that has helped the water utility to make it last longer,” Gillham said.

“There are a number of reasons for reckless water consumption,” he said. “One is that consumers get tired of constantly having to save water. Another is that people see rain and think that the worst is over, which is not the case.”

Thami Hlongwa, the acting chief executive of Umgeni Water, said it was important to save water because there was also a “Day Zero” in the water utility’s system.

He said Day Zero was supposed to have been in May in 2016 but because of foresight and water restrictions, they were able to avoid the worst-case scenario.