Durban – The drought in KwaZulu Natal has reached a “critical” stage and there are fears the province might not have enough water to last consumers into the summer.
The dry conditions first hit in October 2013 when the province received below-average rains, and have persisted since.
Umgeni Water’s Shami Harichunder said they had implemented emergency schemes in hard-hit areas, such as the 7.5km pipeline which pumped water from the uThongathi River into the Hazelmere Dam, on the North Coast, but they could not guarantee people would have
enough water until the spring rains came.
“Water resources were already under stress before the drought hit. So people need to accept that we are short of water and change consumption patterns,” he said.
The uThongathi pipeline supplies 8 million to 10 million litres a day to the dam, but Harichunder said that only delayed the dam’s running out of water by two months because water could not be treated once the dam level reached 20%.
On Friday the level was at a critical 36% and the South Coast system, which consists of the Nungwane, E J Smith and Umzinto dams, had also fallen well below capacity.
Umgeni’s chief executive, Cyril Gamede, said only the Umgeni System had shown resilience because of its design.
Its dams, which include Midmar, Inanda and Albert Falls, did not fall below 50% at any stage.
On Sunday Inanda Dam was 95% full.
“The Umgeni system is designed for a one-in-100-years drought while the others were designed for a one-in-50-years drought because of smaller dams,” he said.
He said the water restrictions would hold on the North and South coasts and there was a possibility that they could be tightened.
“This is the worst drought we’ve had in 20 years and the prognosis is that it may continue for longer. We might be heading the same direction as California (in the US), but for now we are optimistic that rains will come in a few months,” said Gamede.
California is in the grip of a severe drought, now in its fourth year. A drought state of emergency was declared by Governor Jerry Brown in January. A previous drought, starting in 1986, lasted seven years.
Both Gamede and Harichunder stressed that water management by municipalities and consumers was the best solution to balance supply with growing demand.
Umgeni is asking for a 30% decrease in consumption, but that could soon be increased.
“Replacing ageing infrastructure and attending to leaks is imperative. We are investigating other solutions such as desalination and reclamation, but those are not immediate solutions,” said Harichunder.
Objections from residents and environmental groups could delay a proposed desalination plant in Tongaat.
“A reclamation pilot study is under way at our Darvill Waste Water Plant (in Pietermaritzburg), but the initiative is going to need an intensive information campaign because people’s psychology towards recycled water needs to change,” said Gamede.
Follow Alive2Green on Social Media