KZN water supply looks promising, but conservation is a must – Umgeni Water

Province has entered autumn in a reasonably healthy state of water availability

KZN water supply looks promising, but conservation is a must – Umgeni Water

1 March 2019

After years of poor rains and dry weather, one of KwaZulu-Natal's main dams is overflowing with water, bulk water supplier Umgeni Water said on Friday.

Excellent rains in the Mgeni system in the Drakensberg region and ongoing water transfers from Mearns Weir resulted in the vital Midmar Dam spilling on Thursday for the first time in 2019.

Rainfall received in the catchments from November 2018 to the present amounted to 1 666mm – which is marginally higher than the average for this period.

"The province has entered autumn in a reasonably healthy state of water resources availability," Umgeni Water spokesperson Shami Harichunder declared.

The Mgeni system is the largest system in KwaZulu-Natal and serves the water needs of an estimated six million consumers in eThekwini metro, uMgungundlovu District Municipality, Ugu District Municipality and Msunduzi Local Municipality.

"The impact of Midmar Dam's overflow is being seen in downstream Albert Falls Dam where the level has begun steadily increasing," Harichunder said.

He said that while the overflow has increased the water level at Albert Falls, it still remained "worryingly low".

"This is the consequence of a protracted drought that ended in the first quarter of 2018. Inadequate resources in this dam continue to make augmentation through pumping from Inanda Dam necessary in order to ensure there is sufficient water available for the greater Durban region."

Mandatory water restrictions of 15% for domestic, business and industrial use, and 50% for agriculture in the Mgeni system were lifted in July 2018.

Conservation must continue

Harichunder said that while, on average, water resources in the Mgeni system have shown marginal improvement, lessons learnt from the drought of 2016-2018 showed that conservation was key.

"It is better to be conservative in water use rather than extravagant or wasteful. In this regard, therefore, consumers are reminded that they should continue to use water economically."

Harichunder said Umgeni Water and the Department of Water and Sanitation would use a hydrological test to assess the Mgeni system in May.

He said total storage had to be at 67% or more in order to avoid the implementation of restrictions. By Thursday, total storage in the Mgeni system was at 65%.

"Current storage availability means there is no or minimal risk of prolonged supply failure over the next year, based on current demand and consumption."

He said this could, however, change depending on unplanned spikes in demand and consumption.