Durban - The eThekwini Municipality on Tuesday poured cold water on claims it would be introducing stringent “water load-shedding”.
It said an investigation had been launched into a leaked report that included a weekly schedule of shutdowns for areas across the municipality.
The council’s executive committee heard on Tuesday morning it would only be installing restrictors to reduce consumption by 15%.
Head of Water and Sanitation, Ednick Msweli, distanced his office from a report leaked online yesterday that outlined nine-hour water cuts for residents across the city.
While the city needed to reduce its consumption, Msweli said they were nowhere near implementing stringent water cuts.
It had been expected that the now discredited report would be formally announced by Mayor James Nxumalo on Tuesday.
It was aimed at reducing consumption by a mandatory 15% on the critically low Midmar and Albert Falls dams – which supply large parts of Durban with water.
The restrictors to households, were expected to reduce the volume of water released to consumers.
Ethekwini spokeswoman, Tozi Mthethwa refused to confirm the authenticity of the leaked report saying nothing was official until the mayor announced it.
“Last week the MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nomusa Dube-Ncube held a press conference where she directed all municipalities in the province to effect a 15% reduction in consumer demand for water.
“eThekwini Mayor James Nxumalo will officially announce when water reduction measures will be implemented as per the directive from Dube-Ncube. Other than the announcement which will be made by the mayor in due course, there is no official report that has been approved by exco,” she said.
City officials and councillors who viewed the report said it was too detailed to be a hoax. According to the report, 124 reservoirs across the municipality would be affected.
Hospital group Netcare’s general manager for trauma and emergency, Mande Toubkin, said Netcare hospitals in the eThekwini region had been made aware of planned water outages and were putting measures in place.
“Any prolonged water outage will unfortunately impact the functioning of a health-care facility. However, Netcare is mindful of the water crisis in South Africa and therefore has put contingency plans in place that will be implemented to ensure patients continue to receive quality care.”
Schools have expressed concern at expected restrictions.
Ray Naidoo, Pinetown Boys’ High School principal -- which has more than 700 boys -- said the water shortages would make things difficult.
“It is going to be an issue to run a school without water, we are talking about maybe asking boys to bring water from home, but what about the toilets? If we had a bit more time to plan, we could have brought in water capturers for our toilets when we don’t have water, because with so many learners they are going to use the toilet,” he said.
“The city needs to seriously look closely at what to do with schools and hospitals in particular,” he said.
Naidoo said he was to meet the school maintenance team today to discuss ways to tackle the problem because it was clear it was not just a temporary problem.
Vee Gani, chairman of the KZN Parents Association in the Durban South region, said hygiene was the biggest issue.
“Usually when there is no water at schools kids go home early or they shut down because you are going to be in an unmanageable situation. The water shortage issue is a very serious issue in particular when we look at the hygiene issues.
“Educators and learners are going to need to use the toilet, we cannot say people must not flush because that will cause hygiene issues, the department needs to look at ways to manage the situation,” he said.
Last year during the matric exam marking, the James Nxumalo marking centre in Ulundi had to be shut down after 450 maths markers were stuck without water.
Some fell ill and were hospitalised at the time. They had been without running water for days at the school.
KZN Department of Education spokesman, Muzi Mhlambi, said the drought was a reality and was affecting everyone.
“Schools are going to be affected but we understand the bigger picture of efforts to curb the problem of water. We are part of society” he said.
The drought has led to the level of the larger Midmar and Albert Falls dams dropping to just 46% and 36% this month, with officials predicting it could drop even lower in the absence of significant rain.
The average water volume supplied to eThekwini from these dams amounts to 606 million litres a day.
Officials are hoping to reduce the amount to 515 million litres a day. According to the report, people have not heeded appeals for voluntary water restrictions and from December to February only a 1% reduction was achieved.
“Currently, water is being abstracted from the dams at a faster rate than it is filling,” the report said.
How the device works
It is a small device installed at each domestic water meter. It does not affect the pressure, but merely reduces the flow rate into the property.
Consumers will mainly notice the effect of this when a tap is left open for prolonged periods.
Initially the water would gush out as normal, but as the internal water pipes drain, the flow via the water meter will refill the pipes at a slower rate. Basically, a bucket would take 5 minutes to fill instead of 2 minutes.
The main benefit of this device is seen when the mandatory water cuts are implemented, whereby water is shut off for predetermined times. During this time, the entire water main system would drains out to the lower lying consumers.
When the water mains are recharged, this device prevents lower lying consumers from drawing excessive amounts of water, resulting in upper lying consumer going without water for prolonged periods of up to three to five hours.
It simply allows the water mains to refill faster and restore water supply to consumers sooner.
Once this item is installed, one would need to stand one step closer to the shower
and homes with many bathrooms would have to use fewer taps at a time.
How restrictions will operate
The report said: “After considering various factors and alternatives, it was decided the reservoirs will be divided into three groups, Group A, B and C. Group A can expect water supplies to be interrupted on Mondays and Wednesdays. Group B can expect the water supply being interrupted on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Group C can expect interruptions at night where CBD areas are affected.
“Depending on where you are located and which reservoir you are supplied from, your water supply will be interrupted.”