Fix water crisis, or else, City warned

The City Hall is the headquarters of eThekwini Municipality Doctor Ngcobo/ Independent Newspapers

The City Hall is the headquarters of eThekwini Municipality Doctor Ngcobo/ Independent Newspapers

Published Nov 27, 2023


Durban — Opposition parties in eThekwini have called on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Bongi Sithole to intervene as the City battles the water crisis.

IFP councillor Jonathan Annipen said his party was calling for the placing of the City’s Water and Sanitation under administration.

Annipen said the IFP is willing to go to court if need be to place the department under administration.

The city’s water crisis was not caused by last year’s floods, he said, and accused the City’s management of using the floods to hide their failure to maintain water treatment plants.

Even the damage caused by the floods to the treatment plants could have been saved if they were properly maintained, Annipen said.

“The IFP … record our serious concerns regarding the management and administration of eThekwini’s Water and Sanitation Unit and the impact this is having on the residents of eThekwini.

“… eThekwini faces a water crisis of unprecedented proportions. The IFP demands the provincial government step in immediately and place the Water and Sanitation Unit under administration to remedy the crisis.”

Annipen also dismissed the claim that Umngeni-Uthukela Water has restricted water supplies, saying in its discussion with the water authority it became clear that was not true.

The IFP said the City was losing a lot of water to areas that were not metered. It also raised concerns about water consumed by the public from stand pipes which were not paid for.

“In recent years, the City lost multiplied billions to water losses and non-revenue water. Thousands of homes in eThekwini remain unmetered, and hundreds more have illegal water connections.

“Housing developers have built tens of thousands of homes across the city; many of these developments do not have a legally metered supply of water or have tapped into the water supply of existing reservoirs, placing added demand burdens on already fractured infrastructure.

“Many rural and informal settlements have ‘stand-pipes’ supply of water that is not accounted for,” Annipen said.

Adding its voice on the matter the DA said it will petition Cogta to:

  • Urgently list its intended interventions and funding in restoring water security in eThekwini.
  • Provide specialist engineers to urgently investigate and make available for public scrutiny the state of eThekwini’s water and sanitation.
  • Ask for the SIU (Special Investigations Unit) to urgently investigate the ongoing outsourced tanker contracts which may have a link to ongoing vandalism and theft of eThekwini water infrastructure.
  • Insist that the city manager intervenes in the management and allocation of municipal tankers in wards that face ongoing water shortages and outages.

DA councillor Rory Macpherson said his party will also lobby the government that any capital costs for borehole water be 100% tax deductible.

The government must also make Jo-Jo (static) tanks VAT-free, he said.

The DA also wants customers who pay for water to be credited 25% of what they have been billed for in the last 12 months as a rebate for defective water delivery.

Cogta KZN spokesperson Siboniso Mngadi said the government cannot place one unit under administration because no legislation provides for that.

Sections 154 and 139 provide for intervention to the entire administration, not a specific unit, he said.

However, the IFP said there are ways to approach the placing of the unit under administration via the KZN Legislatures petition committee.

“If the provincial government won’t do it willingly the IFP is prepared to take the matter to court.”

Earlier this year the government announced a section 154 in eThekwini but was yet to implement it. eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Gugu Sisilana said there is no 58% water loss; this is an incorrect interpretation of the water balance calculation.

Water balance calculations of non-revenue water are based on water supplied to rural areas and informal settlements where no revenue is generated for the City, Sisilana said. The April 2022 floods severely affected eThekwini Municipality but most of the City’s infrastructure was quickly restored and the impact on residents was minimised, she added.

“The major damage was to our bulk water supplier Umngeni-uThukela Water’s aqueducts. The recent shutdowns implemented by Umngeni-uThukela Water were aimed at addressing the flood disaster damages. This had a direct impact on the City’s ability to supply water to residents as it relies on volumes supplied by Umngeni-uThukela Water.”

Umngeni-uThukela Water was fulfilling its obligations on contracted volumes per treatment plant, but contracted volumes do not translate to enough water supply to the city, she said.

Contracted volumes are what the bulk water supplier can guarantee in supply to the City, based on available water from the catchment system and Umngeni-uThukela Water’s plant capacity.

“Umngeni-UThukela Water will only be able to revise these water volumes when the new dams are constructed. Demand for water supply in the City is increasing due to population growth, migration and new developments.”

Recently, two Water and Sanitation Unit officials were killed in separate incidents.

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