Four large rivers run through Mpumalanga: Usutu, Crocodile, the Sabie-Sand and the Komati, but most of them are stressed. The catchment areas are Olifants, Nkomazi, Usutu and Upper Vaal.
The province’s biggest industries of forestry, mining, synfuel production and power generation are all thirsty activities. Old mines in particular present problems in that they can pollute groundwater. This means that Mpumalanga has to conserve its waters, build more dams and commission new water-treatment plants.
Many municipalities in Mpumalanga have been struggling for some time to provide water for their citizens.
The completion of the De Hoop Dam means that people living in municipalities can now expect bulk water delivery. The Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) is responsible for seeing that bulk water supplies are laid on, but making the local connections and actually delivering the water is up to municipalities and water boards.
The Provincial Government of Mpumalanga has pledged significant resources to this end:
- R2.7-billion in 2015/16 to municipalities for water and sanitation projects
- 32 boreholes have been built to help during the drought, and in 2016/17 a further 582 boreholes will be sunk
- R91-million on the Lushushwane Bulk Water Supply in the Gert Sibande District Municipality
- Waste-water treatment works to be refurbished in Emakhazeni Municipality (funding from national Department of Water and Sanitation)
- Inyaka Water Treatment Works, the Acornhoek Bulk Water Pipeline, and water reticulation projects to 15 villages in the Bushbuckridge Municipality
About 137-million litres of water is supplied on a daily basis to about 1.2-million people in the Bushbuckridge and Mbombela local municipalities by Rand Water. The company runs 11 water-treatment plants, two river schemes and a sewage-treatment plant.
The De Hoop Dam is the centrepiece in the very large Olifants River Water Resource Development Project (ORWRDP), which will transform and control water usage for industrial, commercial and private users. As the catchment area for this huge scheme is to the north of Mpumalanga, the spinoff effect on the province is significant.
The Olifants River System (and associated systems such as the Blyde Irrigation Scheme) feeds the region that is South Africa’s greatest producer of citrus and subtropical fruits.
The TCTA has delivered the Komati Water Supply Augmentation Project: an extra 57-million m³ of water every year is now available for the Duvha and Matla power stations in the eMalahleni (Witbank) area, and other water users.
To make sure that its big Saiccor Mill receives a steady supply of water, Sappi is to raise the wall level of the Comrie Dam. Across its global operations, Sappi claims to return 93% of the water it uses back into the environment once it has been cleaned.
Another important piece of infrastructure being worked on is the second phase of the Vlakfontein canal rehabilitation project. Located between Secunda and Standerton, the canal carries water to vital facilities run by Sasol and Eskom.
A big water user in the province is Sasol, and it reduced its water usage in 2015 by 10% on the previous year (135 458 m³ against 149 552 m³). In addition, the company is working with the Govan Mbeki Municipality to help residents of the township of eMbalenhle to
The R300-million water reclamation plant built by Anglo Coal South Africa and BHP Billiton Energy at eMalahleni has proved such a success that the UN Conference on Climate Change singled it out for praise.
About 30-million litres of water are treated every day, with the bulk of the potable water going to the eMalahleni Local Municipality and the balance going to the mines and coal-washing plants of the two companies.
The Ehlanzeni District Municipality has a Water and Sanitation unit. The White River Water Augmentation Scheme has improved water supplies in the White River area.
Rand Water currently provides water to all but one of the local municipalities in the Nkangala District Municipality (western region) and one of the local municipalities in the Gert Sibande District Municipality in the southern part of the province.
The Komati Basin Water Authority (Kobwa) covers the major rivers of the eastern Lowveld, the Lomati and Komati. Kobwa is a bi-national agency with Swaziland and South Africa each supplying three members to the commission. Phase one of the Komati River basin development project entailed building dams in South Africa (Driekoppies) and Swaziland (Maguga).