Durban – The eThekwini Municipality has launched an investigation into an unofficial leaked document alleging that the city would be implementing water restrictions.
In a letter to ratepayers Mayor James Nxumalo said the decision to investigate the document was made by the municipality’s executive committee (exco) on Tuesday.
A schedule for water restrictions was widely circulated on social media this week detailing times for restrictions in various areas in the city.
Nxumalo said the investigation would establish who leaked the document and the motive.
He added that the municipality has been taking measures to reduce water consumption by 15% as requested by MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nomusa Dube-Ncube.
“Any planned restrictions will be carefully considered and proper consultation with affected communities will take place before water curtailing measures are implemented.”
According to Nxumalo, the municipality’s water and sanitation head, Ednick Msweli, had said water restrictions would be a last option after all other water saving measures had been exhausted.
“The report, which has caused a lot of unnecessary panic among the public, is not an official report by the city.
“There is a process to deal with documents in council, starting from the head of a department, progressing to a committee and then the executive committee and then council before it is approved. This report did not come before a committee.”
Nxumalo said a special full council meeting would be held on Friday during which the eThekwini water and sanitation department would make a presentation.
“This will inform [councillors] of the current drought situation as well as measures being taken by the city, including that there would be no water rationing.
“In light of the drought crisis we have implemented measures such as installing restrictors and education campaigns on water conservation.”
More than 50 000 restrictors have been installed already, he said.
Areas where restrictors have been installed include Welbedacht East and West, KwaDabeka, Ntuzuma, Mount Moriah, uThongathi, Verulam, La Mercy, Westbrook and uMdloti which had been supplied from the Hazelmere Dam system since April 2015.
Water authorities are setting up schemes to supply water to the three million residents who are faced with shortages, thanks to the ongoing drought.
The City of Durban has moved to the next level of drought, with city water officials rolling out contingency measures for residents who do not have access to water.
Its three million residents are already living with water restrictions, thanks to South Africa’s worst drought in 112-years. KwaZulu-Natal has had several droughts since 2012, but declared a provincial drought disaster in late 2014.
In that time, the three major dams that supply Durban and the rest of the province have seen their levels drop to as low as 30%.
The contingency measures have already seen water tanks installed around the city and an increase in water tankers so that people can access water if they do not have any. Officials at Umgeni Water, the local utility, say further measures will include four-litre bags of water being distributed to people who have the least access to water.
Other South African cities are in the early stages of this, with places such as Bloemfontein imposing severe water restrictions and fines for wastage.
Research released by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis this week said this sort of urban water crunch would become the norm this century, if nothing was done to lower consumption and use water more efficiently.
The research – “Pressure building on global water supply” – was published in the journal Geoscientific Model Development.
It warned: “Our current water use habits increase the risk of being unable to maintain sustainable food production and economic development for the future generation.”
South Africa’s droughts are cyclical and the current one has been exacerbated by El Niño, but the 31st-driest country in the world has targeted water waste as a big problem for the future. The Water Research Council, a quasi-government research body, estimates that a third of all water is lost in water systems.
Fixing this is part of the national response to the ongoing drought.
In the long term, South Africa’s environment department predicts that droughts will become more frequent and more intense. Rainfall might increase, but it will only do so in the eastern parts of the country. This rain will also come in heavier and more damaging spells, which makes storing the water more difficult.