Minister of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu and KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala held a media briefing at the Olive Convention Centre yesterday on the state of water supply in province. Picture: Theo Jeptha
Minister of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu and KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala held a media briefing at the Olive Convention Centre yesterday on the state of water supply in province. Picture: Theo Jeptha

Minister of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu assesses water projects in KZN in the midst of ongoing water issues

By Xolile Bhengu Time of article published Oct 14, 2021

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DURBAN - MINISTER of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu said the country’s persistent water problems were due to lack of infrastructure upkeep and increased demand caused by migration from rural to urban areas.

Mchunu, who is visiting KwaZulu-Natal to assess the state of water projects in the province, said water leaks caused by old piping infrastructure and general vandalism of existing water sources by illegal occupants of land were some of the issues that he wanted to address with the provincial government.

He said they wanted to leave the provincial government with a proper plan so it could address increased protests in areas where people complained that they did not have access to water.

“There is an issue of water availability globally, but the issues of water access in the country are isolated to hot spot areas. People must have access to water as a basic Bill of Rights and Constitutional right.

“Nationally, we are working on a sanitation framework for the country. We are also aware that there are incomplete water projects in this province and we need to find out what has caused the delay of the infrastructure development.

“The premier and I have agreed that the use of water trucks to address water shortages is not a sustainable solution to the problems,” said Mchunu. He added that he was embarrassed that pit toilets were still a reality for many rural areas, especially in schools, adding that his department was aware there were signals that by 2030 the province and country would face a water crisis if nothing was done.

“We must formulate a plan on how to augment water resources properly. We are discussing with other countries such as Lesotho through the Lesotho Highlands Project on how we could have project co-ordination. I am also aware of issues such as water shedding in KZN and will be meeting with the eThekwini Municipality to understand how they are going to address those issues.

“Generally, water leaks cause anything between 40%-50% of water losses and we need a clear plan on mitigation, which is lacking. Part of the discussions would be to upgrade water infrastructure to ensure that water management facilities are able to detect and identify through technology when and where there are water leaks and these must be budgeted and properly financed projects,” said Mchunu.

Umgeni Water reported recently that it was concerned that in 2018/19 there was a R5 billion non-revenue water amount in KZN and that was detrimental to the survival of all municipalities. The Water and Sanitation Department said nationally there was a conservative estimate of R9.9bn from non-revenue water losses caused by leaking taps, vandalism and illegal water connections.

Mchunu added that he would be discussing with water boards and other stakeholders the issues of proper tariffs being charged for water use.

“We will be meeting with eThekwini, Umgungundlovu, Umhlathuze, Umkomaas and other officials to find out where we must intervene. In the interim, we will be replacing the old infrastructure as a long-term solution.”

KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala said there was a need for a combined budget and alignment on planning. “From this engagement we need to have programme agreements and align on projects and planning.”

Ednick Msweli, head of Water for eThekwini Municipality, agreed with Mchunu that provincially, there were areas where supply was outstripped by demand.

Msweli said an interesting phenomenon was the increased migration and larger residential and commercial developments in areas such as Adams, Mzinyathi and Hazelmere, which had normally been rural, and that the larger homes with washing machines and showers would cause a strain on water resources. “The other challenge is to ensure that as the areas grow we have proper meter reading services implemented to ensure people are charged fairly. As a municipality we are dealing with the water losses on a project by project basis,” he said.

THE MERCURY

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