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Every drop of water still coming out of the tap is now more precious than ever as dam levels continue to plummet, and time is quickly running out until the little remaining supply is depleted.
Goedertrouw Dam, presently the City’s only water source, last week dropped to an alarmingly 24.2%, and authorities warn if all citizens do not urgently contribute to water-saving efforts, Zululand could be bone dry in fewer than 200 days, with 80% of the district’s water schemes likely to fail.
Recently the region’s most influential leaders, including District Mayor Thembeka Mchunu and uMhlathuze City Mayor Mduduzi Mhlongo, met with water utilities Mhlathuze Water and Umgeni Water, as well as the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), to thrash out contingency plans for the looming disaster.
Restrictions, fines and water-shedding schedules have already been put on the table by various municipalities to encourage wiser water use, but the delegates agreed that if all domestic users do not heed the call to save water, the region will not evade disaster status.
‘If each and every person works together in this crisis, we can turn the situation around; if not, we will be in serious trouble,’ warned uThungulu District Municipal Manager Mandla Nkosi.
He said short-term interventions are crucial, particularly the implementation of the Tugela Transfer Scheme, which would increase the capacity of water pumped from the Tugela River to the Goedertrouw Dam from approximately 1m3 per second to about 2,4m3 per second.
‘We have already been forced to increase water tanker delivery services, costing us at least R5-million a month – double the amount we used to spend.
‘Going forward, harvesting rainwater will be the most important strategy for Zululanders.’
Mchunu also asked the DWS to reassess infrastructure plans for the district, considering its size.
‘Even with the Tugela transfer, it would only give us 4 megalitres a day,’ said Mchunu.
‘Please note we have 103 wards, equivalent to the eThekwini Municipality, so we would need at least 40 megalitres.
‘More dams should be built to supplement the intake of Goedertrouw.
‘I also stress to stakeholders and the department that about 50% of the rain falling into the Tugela River goes to sea. We should have off-river water storage facilities to save this waste.’
Recent rain no big fix
Both City Mayor Mhlongo and District Mayor Mchunu agreed the degree of the scarcity needs to be disseminated clearly and effectively in Zulu and English.
‘People think if it rained last week, there is no longer a need to worry,’ said Mhlongo.
‘But it will take years to recover from the damage.
‘Our message must be simple, loud and clear – our water is running out!’
Dropping facts – DWS
• Over 12.3 million people in more than 2 million households from 89 000 settlements are affected by the drought in KZN alone
• Of 232 boreholes sites, 149 have been drilled, 113 tested, 12 equipped and 85 repaired
• The Lower Tugela Bulk water supply will start delivering from June this year
• 16 000 water restrictors have been installed
• The Hluhluwe Dam level is the lowest in KZN at 17.7%.