Rivers ‘pumping’ ahead of the Duzi

Albert Falls in all its glory, showing the wall over which water recently started flowing for the first time in 18 years. Picture: Steve McCurrach/www.airserv.co.za

Albert Falls in all its glory, showing the wall over which water recently started flowing for the first time in 18 years. Picture: Steve McCurrach/www.airserv.co.za

Published Feb 12, 2022


Durban - Rivers in the Mngeni catchment continue to be “pumping”, a blessing water-wise, and a curse when it comes to pollution.

However, certain stakeholders have assured that they are dealing with the latter.

From Thursday, when paddlers set off on the annual 120km Duzi race down the Msunduzi and Mngeni Rivers, they will enter waters that will have had more than the usual eyes on them.

“Monitoring of water quality in the Msunduzi River has been increased,” Umgeni Water spokesman Shami Harichunder told the Independent on Saturday.

“In addition to routine water quality analysis, 11 additional sites have been included, in partnership with the Duzi-uMngeni Conservation Trust.”

This, he said, was part of initiatives to obtain more information which is shared with various stakeholders including race organisers, to detect problem areas early and take remedial action.

Harichunder said storms last month had broken or blocked sewers in Pietermaritzburg’s municipal infrastructure and that affected water quality in parts of the river system and Inanda Dam.

“Analysis released on February 9 from samples taken at 29 sites in the Pietermaritzburg area over the previous 24 hours shows various degrees of E. coli presence,” Harichunder added.

A stretch of white water over the Midmar Dam wall among the blue water and green countryside, all symptoms of the good rains. Picture: Steve McCurrach/ www.airserv.co.za

E. coli is used as an overall indicator of faecal and related contamination.

“As can be expected due to run-offs from recent heavy rains, the pollution load was high at the time of sampling.”

He said with time to fix these breakages, “significant improvement is possible before the race”.

He added that depending on the outcomes of future river water quality monitoring and if requested by the organisers for higher river flows, Umgeni Water would be able to release water from the Henley Dam, upstream of the provincial capital, which is 105% full and spilling.

“There is an abundance of water available for release, which have been provisionally set for starting a day before the race to the first day of the race. Releases from Henley Dam flush the Msunduzi River system with better quality water, as well as providing for good paddling.

“If needed, one release from Inanda Dam will also occur on day three of the race. This dam is presently at about 103% and also spilling.”

Harichunder added that at Inanda Dam, Umgeni Water staff were working at managing the alien water plants as part of an integrated aquatic weed management plan. Implementation began in 2020 and, until a year ago, it proved effective through interventions at both the upstream catchment and Inanda Dam.

In Pietermaritzburg, industry is playing its part in trying to clean the rivers.

The Willowton Group, which was responsible for a serious pollution spill three years ago, has been conducting monthly clean-ups in Baynespruit which has a reputation for being filthy.

“Like most water courses in South Africa, the upper catchment of the Baynespruit River is surrounded by high-density formal residential development, the middle reaches flow through an industrial area while, further downstream, it is bordered by high-density formal and informal settlements," said the Willowton Group‘s Abie Khan.

Everything from vehicle parts to carpets, plastic waste and paper had been cleared up by staff.

At the coast, the uMhlanga Rocks Urban Improvement Precinct this week announced the opening of beaches that had been closed because of toxic chemicals downstream of the UPL warehouse in Cornubia that was razed during the July rioting and looting.

The company said new information based on the results of monitoring efforts by independent experts showed improvements and helped identify areas that needed continued remediation work.

The Independent on Saturday