KZN water crisis: SALGA warns, troubles on the horizon

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Do Newcastillians across KwaZulu-Natal have to worry about an impending water crisis on top of our already political gangsterism, corruption and Eskom issues?

This follows the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), KwaZulu-Natal Chapter, warning that most KZN municipalities are facing a major challenge in terms of water. If not addressed, these challenges will see some municipalities facing dire consequences in terms of water supply.

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Chairperson of SALGA KZN, Thami Ntuli produced a series of revelations in Durban on Wednesday, 3 August 2022, while addressing councillors in charge of water portfolios in their respective municipalities.

Ntuli highlighted that it was important to recognise the fact that South Africa was not only a water-scarce country but also a water wasteful country through the high non-revenue water loss.

“Therefore, the management and utilisation of these resources require cooperation from all of us. Municipalities need to ensure efficient management whilst citizens should ensure efficient usage of this precious commodity,” he explained.

Despite this, Ntuli stressed that while it was important for municipalities and their communities to work together, there were factors at play when it came to general water supply.

“Further, it should be acknowledged that some of the factors that contributed to the current situation in local government are both historical (municipalities inherited old infrastructure that was due for replacement without funding), and a result of current practices (lack of maintenance and investment and shortage of skills). In this regard it is also important to refer to tendencies of irresponsible leadership in some municipalities,” he emphasised.

The KZN SALGA Chairperson also noted the following key challenges:

  • Water usage by consumers – According to Ntuli, it has been observed that consumption in certain parts of the province, particularly in urban areas, exceeds supply. This situation in some respect put unnecessary pressure on municipalities to deliver water beyond their allocated water licences.
  • Pollution and Management of Wastewater management – Ntuli stressed that SALGA KZN acknowledged that certain KZN wastewater facilities are a cause of concern, as they pollute water courses. “We all know that some municipalities’ wastewater facilities discharge effluent that is not in accordance to set standards and such causes pollution in our water courses. The consequence of such is an increase in treatment costs,” he stressed.
  • Over 40% of revenue is lost through leaking pipes, and illegal connections are a cause for concern. Estimates costs for such is in order of R9 billion per annum.
  • Persistent Flooding – persistent flooding in KZN has allegedly led to the destruction and collapse of water infrastructure.
  • Non-payment of services – Consumers of payment level has reached 41%. Ntuli pointed out that such is a threat to the sustainability of the services by sector, particularly at the municipal level. Some consumers are connected but are not connected to the billing system of municipalities and there are even bulk consumers.

Therefore, Ntuli explained that the South African Institute of Civil Engineers (SAICE) has observed that several municipal water and wastewater infrastructure poses a risk to society in terms of pollution. This is due to a lack of proper management of wastewater facilities (pollution) and demand exceeding supply and of course, the lack of skills.

With this in mind, Ntuli stressed that Sustainable Water Management was everyone’s concern and that a collaborative approach with communities in our water catchment areas is of critical importance.

Councillor Thys Janse van Rensburg – DA Uthukela Councillor – pointed out that the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) will be hosting public hearings regarding the water crisis in the uThukela District.

A provincial inquiry has been confirmed for 15 to 19 August 2022, although it was initially scheduled for July, stated Cllr Janse van Rensburg, adding that they were hopeful the hearings won’t be rescheduled so the process can officially begin and provide much-needed relief for residents.

The basic water supply by the uThukela District Municipality to the town of Colenso has been intermittent for weeks, with outages lasting from hours to days at a time.

“Among the affected is the Midlands Orphanage Care Centre that has been struggling with intermittent water supply for two weeks now, affecting not only drinking water, but hygiene standards in the communal living environment,” noted Cllr Janse van Rensburg.

Despite ongoing pleas from the Colenso community, water outages have continued unabated, which resulted in community members protesting on Monday, 1 August 2022, along the R103 (between Colenso and Estcourt). “The DA is very concerned about the ongoing struggle to provide basic services to the residents in uThukela. We, therefore, hope that the planned SAHRC sitting focuses and provide solutions to rectify the crisis.”

With multiple KZN municipalities facing water-related challenges, Ntuli stated, “Lastly, sustaining water service delivery will require investment through funding instruments such as tariffs (user pay principle), taxes and transfers. The water crisis can only be resolved through collaboration by all of us.”

However, in reality,  the water crisis has been created through decades of poor to no management, corruption and incorrect suppliers/staff. Therefore, fixing the basics will assist in getting more funding. 

What are your thoughts on the above? Share your views in the comment section below.

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