City won’t meet water repair deadline

Technical teams had been hard at work to resolve the water supply interruptions. Picture: Supplied

Technical teams had been hard at work to resolve the water supply interruptions. Picture: Supplied

Published Feb 15, 2024


eThekwini Municipality has admitted that it will not be able to meet Thursday’s deadline to restore water supply to all areas affected by outages across the city.

The municipality’s leadership, led by City manager Musa Mbhele, held a media briefing on Thursday to provide an update on the work that has been done to deal with the water supply challenges.

Technical teams had been hard at work to resolve the water supply interruptions, he said.

“We appeal for understanding by our communities and we are cognisant that residents have been suffering without water for a prolonged period.

“However, we assure residents that our teams have been working around the clock and we will not rest until the water supply is fully restored.”

However, community organisations dismissed the explanation and said residents were being taken for granted.

Speaking on the Northern Aqueduct – concerning supply to Newlands, KwaMashu, Ntuzuma, Phoenix, Mount Edgecombe, Virginia, uMhlanga, Durban North and Verulam – work was being completed in sections including reducing leaks and replacing defective air valves, the City said.

It said work was completed on the first and second sections of the aqueduct from Durban Heights Waterworks to uMngeni River and from uMngeni River to Newlands.

It said this has seen improved water supply to Newlands, KwaMashu and Ntuzuma.

However, the City said the water supply to Ntuzuma was still limited by the repairs and the upgrade to the Ntuzuma Pump Station which was affected by fire.

On the third section from Newlands to Phoenix, 31 air valves were replaced and six are outstanding as they require modification.

“The existing aqueduct and its valves are decades old, and maintenance and asset records are not available for some of the valves inside the chambers along the pipeline. In addition, there is housing encroachment on some areas of the pipeline servitude making access problematic and therefore making it difficult to know what types of valves were under the encroachment.”

It said this work was under way and was now scheduled to be completed by February 21.

The municipality said the replacement of the 31 valves in section 3 had improved but not fully resolved the water supply disruptions impacting Phoenix, Mount Edgecombe, Virginia, uMhlanga and Durban North.

It was expected that the water supply will be fully restored when the remaining six air valves were installed.

On the fourth section from Phoenix to Verulam (Mount View Reservoir), it said 25 valves had been serviced but it would only receive additional water once the work on the third section was completed.

The commissioning of the first phase of the new aqueduct was due to be completed by the end of this month.

The repaired old aqueduct and the new aqueduct will both supply water to the northern areas, it said.

In other areas, issues affecting oThongathi had been resolved with additional work taking place, including the upgrade to the Hazelmere to Grange pipeline.

It said the Southern Aqueduct project was on track to commence in April.

In the KwaXimba area, the City said supply was constrained by the limited size of the bulk pipeline and work to upgrade the trunk main from Cato Ridge Reservoir to KwaXimba was under way.

In response to the City’s briefing, the Verulam Water Crisis Committee, said it was deeply disappointed to learn that the deadline for the return of water will not be met.

It said the City’s apology did not alleviate the immediate and ongoing water crisis.

“Regarding the progress made with the Northern Aqueduct, we appreciate that some work has been completed,” it said.

“However, it is concerning that limitations in maintenance and asset records, as well as housing encroachments, have hindered the progress of these interventions.

“Additionally, the progress with other interventions in the eThekwini Municipality, such as the Hazelmere to Grange pipeline upgrade and the active leak detection and repair programme, while commendable, will not address the immediate water crisis faced by the Verulam community.

“The urgency of the situation in Verulam cannot be overstated.”

Pastor Mervyn Reddy, the public relations officer of the Voice of Phoenix, said he was not surprised that the deadline was not going to be met.

Only the issue of air valves was mentioned by the City during community meetings while other issues were not raised, he said.

“They only spoke about the air valves and never raised any other issues. We knew that there were other issues.

“Neither did they speak about the aqueduct that needs to be commissioned and they did not speak about the leakages between the reservoirs.”

Reddy said the mayor had fallen short in his duties.

“Here you have a display of him taking the community for granted, taking us as fools. If the ANC wants to save face, they need to recall the mayor and place eThekwini under administration. So the national department can intervene; they can send competent officials to ensure that the water crisis is normalised.”

He said the “goalposts were constantly shifting” regarding when the crisis will be resolved.

*Additional Reporting Mercury Reporter

The Mercury