Dire warning from Umgeni Water as municipalities fail to pay for the provision of water
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DURBAN - AS RESIDENTS continue to experience water problems in different areas of KwaZulu-Natal, a KZN water board has warned that it may not be able to meet its legislated task of providing water if municipalities fail to pay for the service.
The warning came from Umgeni Water, which supplies eight municipalities including eThekwini metro and the uMgungundlovu district, which is made up of Pietermaritzburg and surrounding towns.
The latest reports indicate that the water entity is owed R1.4 billion, with one municipality having a R258 million unpaid bill.
Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu recently expressed her concerns over the amount of money owed by municipalities to water boards.
“As at May 31, 2021, a total of R1.4bn was owed to Umgeni Water by its eight municipal customers. This amount comprises R535m as current debt, which is due for payment by June 30, 2021.
“The rest – amounting to R877m – is in arrears. In arrears means that the amount owed exceeds the 30-day payment period,” Umgeni Water’s spokesperson, Shami Harichunder, said yesterday.
He added that while the entity was sympathetic to the financial hardships being experienced by consumers and municipalities, they also had a mandate to uphold, pointing out the need for infrastructure refurbishments in order to meet the ever-growing demand for water across the province.
“Construction and refurbishment of infrastructure require significant investment in capital expenditure that amounts to many billions of rand,” Harichunder said.
The water entity said it valued the relationship it enjoyed with its stakeholders and customers and would continue to engage with them on pressing matters that required resolution.
Mhlathuze Water spokesperson Siyabonga Maphumulo indicated that the entity was owed a combined bill of over R30m by uMhlathuze municipality (Richards Bay and Empangeni) and uMkhanyakude.
“The City of uMhlathuze owes us a total of R21.3m and uMkhanyakude municipality owes us R13.3m.”
He pointed out that while the bill was high, the entity had managed to recover a sizeable amount through the involvement of the KZN Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs.
He added that while there were unpaid bills, this had not hamstrung the entity.
“The water utility remains in a financially strong position; we continue with the rollout of ambitious water relief projects in our area of supply.
“More recently, we have successfully introduced a new atmospheric water generation project in the uPhongolo local municipality, which has brought relief to the community,” said Maphumulo.
According to Sisulu as of March this year water entities across South Africa were owed R12.6bn by municipalities.