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‘Day Zero’ looming in drought-hit KZN towns

File picture: Pexels

File picture: Pexels

Published Oct 28, 2019


Durban - Severe water shortages facing the KwaZulu-Natal Natal South Coast are showing no signs of abating, with Ugu District Municipality warning consumers and businesses that Day Zero is slowly looming, as water sources have dried up in the region.

Day Zero is a term first used by the drought-stricken Cape Town metro in 2018 to describe a situation where the city’s taps were expected to run dry and people started queuing for water.

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Municipal officials told The Mercury yesterday that the water situation was so dire that they had made an urgent proposal to Umgeni Water to build a bulk pipeline that will supply water from Port Shepstone to Harding.

According to the district municipality’s spokesperson, France Nzama, other measures to prevent the crisis include building “a big wall” that will block seawater from flowing back to the uMzimkhulu River and making the water salty. Ugu district includes the Ray Nkonyeni, Umzumbe, uMuziwabantu and uMdoni municipalities.

The drought has prompted the municipality to ask the national government to declare Harding a disaster area.

Nzama said no amount of planning and no sophisticated engineering practices could trigger the most vital and natural source for water: rain.

In an attempt to seek urgent solutions, the municipality recently met with officials from the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), Umgeni Water and the Department of Water and Sanitation, said Nzama.

The stakeholder engagement was aimed at looking for ways to tackle the “Day Zero” phenomenon in Harding.

“There’s no water in our sources in Harding. We’re looking at other plans on how we can make sure that our sources can supply water to Harding. The other affected area is Ray Nkonyeni Municipality where water supply has also decreased.

“We’ve tried all we can, but nothing is working out. The sea is also affecting us, as it’s pushing up seawater to the river, causing it to be salty.

“We’re working on a plan to build a big wall that will be useful in blocking the seawater from flowing back to the river,” he said, adding that this project would cost the cash-strapped municipality millions of rand.

Nzama cautioned that unless something was done, in less than five years, there might be no water in the district, saying this would have a huge negative effect on residents and businesses.

Shami Harichunder, Umgeni Water’s corporate stakeholder manager, said high-level discussions had led to a decision to transfer water from Weza Dam to Harding Dam, both of which were in the South Coast system.

Harichunder said a protracted drought had resulted in water shortages in Harding, and both parties had been in discussions for several months on possible solutions.

“This system will involve the implementation of a pipeline that will transfer water from Weza Dam into Harding Dam for treatment at the Harding Water Treatment Works, and then be supplied in drinkable form to Harding and surrounding areas,” said Harichunder.

He said that at this stage, preliminary project preparations were under way, and as more information become available it would be shared with stakeholders.

Provincial Cogta spokesperson Lennox Mabaso said they were aware that rains were behind schedule, which caused water sources to be dry.

Mabaso said with enough rain, they would be able to fill the dams and provide water to residents.

“We don’t want to sound alarmist by labelling the challenge as Day Zero, but water challenges are being experienced across all municipalities. As the department, we’re aware of all the challenges faced by the municipalities, especially Ugu, Uthukela and uMkhanyakude,” said Mabaso.

He said MEC Sipho Hlomuka was holding ongoing engagements with various government stakeholders to come up with an effective plan to tackle water challenges.

“We’ll be looking at providing water tankers and drilling boreholes as some of the intervention,” he said.

A Harding resident, who asked not to be named, said they were now collecting water from the river, while those who could afford it were buying from the shops.

“The situation here is very hard. We’re now drinking water with cattle and goats. It’s hard because even in rivers, there’s no water, and where there is some, it’s dirty. Most people in this area survive with planting in the gardens, but now their veggies are dying,” said the resident.

The Mercury

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