eThekwini’s appeal for water relief

Work on the go at the Mkomazi Water Project . Picture: SUPPLIED

Work on the go at the Mkomazi Water Project . Picture: SUPPLIED

Published Oct 22, 2023


THE Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has intervened in the management of some of eThekwini Municipality’s wastewater treatment plants and water supply output as the City struggles to provide the service delivery.

The department has confirmed that it has secured multi-billion rand grants on behalf of the municipality for the Mkomazi Water Project at the southern end of Durban, which would alleviate the city’s already water supply issues.

Work on the go at the Mkomazi Water Project . Picture: SUPPLIED

It has also confirmed that a deal to bring uMngeni-uThukela Water (UUW) on board to handle some of the municipality’s major wastewater treatment plants was near finalisation.

Constant water outages in various parts of the municipality have become a way of life for many residents and a telling impact of sewage seepage from the city’s infrastructure systems forced the on and off closure of Durban’s beaches.

Water loss of nearly 60% was another factor impacting eThekwini’s service delivery.

Those and other shortcomings of the municipality in honouring its service delivery were laid bare in the South African Human Rights Commission’s (SAHRC) KZN Water Inquiry Report, which was released last month.

Wisane Mavasa, spokesperson for the DWS, said, like the SAHRC, they also received service delivery complaints from eThekwini consumers.

Having supported the City with water and sanitation services after the April 2022 floods, eThekwini requested further assistance from the DSW on a broader spectrum of their water woes.

Mavasa said: “Minister Senzo Mchunu convened a meeting with the Minister of CoGTA , KwaZulu-Natal’s CoGTA MEC, eThekwini leadership and other relevant officials in December, and a technical co-ordinating committee was established to enable collaboration between departments and mobilise support.

“A turnaround strategy was adopted by the municipality for implementation. The DWS will monitor and support the implementation of the strategy.”

Mavasa said eThekwini requested assistance with funding for the Mkomazi project and the DWS, through the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA), secured a fiscal grant of approximately 25%, and an interest free loan of approximately 25% from the Budget Facility for Infrastructure (BFI).

The funding injection for the project totalled R12 billion.

“TCTA is an entity of the DWS that is implementing the raw water component of the project, which includes the development of a dam, a tunnel, and associated infrastructure at a project cost of approximately R32 billion.”

She said UUW were directed to implement the treated water component of the project, including a water treatment works and associated infrastructure, at a project cost of approximately R8.9bn.

“A further request for support from UUW to manage their wastewater treatment works was also made by the municipality.

“eThekwini and UUW are finalising the details of the short term (1 to 3 year) management contract. The contract is likely to include support to manage the operations and refurbishment of 10 of the City’s largest wastewater treatment plants, build internal capacity including appropriate systems and processes to effectively operate the works.

“Investigations are also under way for a longer term (20 year) bulk wastewater provider agreement.”

Mavasa said the municipality would pay for the operations and refurbishment under the short-term support contract, and National Treasury would provide support through their City Support Programme.

She said their Water Partnership Office was in discussion with the municipality to provide support with the structuring of a non-revenue water performance-based contract to reduce non-revenue water in the Phoenix, Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu areas.

Mavasa added that key issues identified in the turnaround strategy were the need to improve the sustainability of the water and sanitation services and reducing non-revenue water from nearly 60% currently.

Lindiwe Khuzwayo, the municipality’s head of communications, said they received a directive from the DWS to address the impact of the April floods, compile an action plan to assess the integrity of the sewer infrastructure and the resultant pollution affecting the water course within the eThekwini region.

They also provided timeframes and the required funding for the plan .

Khuzwayo said after assessing the City’s 27 wastewater treatment works, it was decided that UUW would be the managing contractor at 10 of those facilities.

UUW would be paid an agreed agency fee that had already been provided for within the municipality’s approved budget.

“No additional funding has been provided for by the municipality.

“The unprecedented 2022 floods greatly affected the municipality’s resources and capacity to cope. This collaboration will allow the municipality to redirect its resources and focus on other critical ageing infrastructure challenges,” Khuzwayo said.

Yogis Govender, the DA’s exco member, said they have maintained that the city was unable to manage the wastewater treatment plants and pump stations.

“The extent of their mismanagement was completely exposed when the April floods hit.

‘The city has now admittedly thrown the problem to another entity for resolution.

If the mayor, the city manager and the chairperson of human Settlements have let another entity in through the side door to manage an eThekwini mandate then it is imperative that the city go under administration, Govender suggested.

Jane Naidoo, the IFP’s ward 99 councillor, said the Mkomazi project being built in her area would improve the consistency at which water was supplied to areas between Amanzimtoti and parts of the neighbouring Umdoni Municipality.

Naidoo said their water supply was erratic and this was exacerbated by their location, downstream to the Durban Heights water treatment plant, and were “bottom feeders”.

She said Eskom was the supplier of power to their area and their bouts of load shedding were more stringent than eThekwini’s, which meant more downtime for pump stations and delays in water supply.

Naidoo said the Mkomazi project would be completed in its entirety in five years.

“That wait is too long. Our residents are struggling presently and the municipality ignores our struggles,” she said.