South Africa is a water-scarce country and the drought in most parts of the country had reached serious proportions.
This problem is made worse by the fact that a lot of water is lost through leaky pipes and inefficient metering. According to Water Wheel magazine (December 2014), 37% of water delivered to the nation’s municipalities is lost. This challenge presents an opportunity for companies who could solve the problems, for example by providing better pipes, connections and smart metering.
In September 2015 the city of Durban lost more than 40% of its water, despite water restrictions being imposed in the northern parts of the city. The Mercury reported that the losses amounted to R602.6-million per year.
A related problem concerns a shortage of engineers, with the national Department of Water and Sanitation importing Cuban engineers to assist in the short term. A local solution was put in place in September 2015 when the first group of young people started training to become Water Agents, Plumbers and Artisans. The goal for the first phase is to train 15 000 young people.
Umgeni Water, the province’s biggest water utility, has launched the Adopt-a-River Project, which aims to keep rivers clean, raise awareness and create jobs. On the Ncandu River that runs through Newcastle, 49 people received training in various skills such as first aid, herbicide application and alien plant identification. One person received a bursary from the national department to study at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Purification, desalination, water-leakage management and wastewater treatment are some of the issues facing South Africans, and experienced international companies are showing an interest in the country. American companies with a presence in South Africa include the Hach Corporation, Harvard Corporation, Nalco and the Adel Wiggins Group.
In 2015 the Danish government signed an agreement to help the South African government with water management and water efficiency. Companies such as smart-meter specialists Kamstrup are already active in the country.
The first phase of the Spring Grove Dam in the Mooi River area has been completed on schedule and has increased water supplies in the Umgeni River catchment area.
Spring Grove takes to five the number of dams in the Mooi-Mgeni system (including the Midmar, Albert Falls, Nagle and Inanda dams), which serve more than five-million people in Durban, Pietermaritzburg and their surrounding towns. When Spring Grove is complete, the total system yield will rise to 394-million m3/year.
A new dam is being built at Smithfield and the wall of the Hazelmere Dam is being raised to increase capacity. Unfortunately, levels in 2015 and 2016 dropped to alarming levels in the latter dam, but the larger dam will be necessary when the rains come again.
Construction of the new Waterloo reservoir near the King Shaka International Airport (and serving this northern area) was completed in late 2011. The master plan will see water delivered to this reservoir from the Northern Aqueduct Augmentation Project.
The Western Aqueduct project (valued at R864-million) and the associated Northern Aqueduct Augmentation Project will inject water into the rapidly developing area north of Durban.
The Tugela Bulk Water Scheme (valued at R1.4-billion) will supply water to KwaZulu-Natal’s North Coast. Water flows are expected to begin in the middle of 2016 in this nationally funded project.
The eThekwini Municipality is spending R600-million on water and sanitation in 317 informal settlements.
The provincial government committed R872-million to water infrastructure projects for the 2015/16 financial year. This money was allocated from the Municipal Infrastructure Grant.
Talks have begun to rationalise the province’s water boards into one body. The aim is to achieve economies of scale and efficiency and to make it easier to raise funds for large projects.
Umgeni Water currently supplies more than 400-million cubic metres of potable water to its six large municipal customers: eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, iLembe District Municipality, Sisonke District Municipality, Umgungundlovu District Municipality, Ugu District Municipality and Msunduzi Local Municipality.
The company has five dams, 10 waterworks, five water-treatment plants and two wastewater works.
Large parts of the northern part of the province are served by Mhlathuze Water, which has built inter-basin transfer schemes, water-treatment plants and sewerage plants which it operates on behalf of local municipalities. The utility has assets valued at more than R3-billion and its area of supply covers 37 000 square kilometres.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has made a difference in the lives of 200 households in the uThungulu District by making clean water available. This project was facilitated by Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal.
Another project in this district is the extension of the Sundumbili water-treatment works. This plant treats water from the Tugela River. Engineering and environmental consultancy Royal HaskoningDHV is leading the R17-million project.
Nedbank is putting R9-million over five years into clearing alien vegetation in the country’s water-catchment areas, including in KwaZulu-Natal. The Nedbank sponsorship of the WWF’s Water Balance Programme has seen water flowing more freely in the Umgeni catchment area.
The WWF Nedbank Green Trust is one of the major sponsors behind the Dusi uMnengi Conservation Trust, which works for the environmental health of the uMngeni and uMsunduzi Rivers. A Green Corridor initiative is one of the projects. The Dusi Canoe Marathon is a major income-generator, but if the river is clogged up and dirty then that income becomes threatened.
Published in the 2016-17 edition of KwaZulu-Natal Business