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City of eThekwini water crisis: Why is the municipality still using old and outdated water system?

Durban residents fill up their water bottles at a Musjidur Rahman Mosque on Kenneth Kaunda Road in Durban North as the eThekwini Water crisis enters its second week. Picture: supplied.

Durban residents fill up their water bottles at a Musjidur Rahman Mosque on Kenneth Kaunda Road in Durban North as the eThekwini Water crisis enters its second week. Picture: supplied.

Published Sep 25, 2023


It’s 2023 - nearly the end of it actually - but the eThekwini Municipality still uses outdated and costly methods of delivering water to its people and methods that require physical effort to locate and fix a problem, instead of utilising technology.

Much like wars or a “global health crisis”, there are always a few behind the curtain profiting from an engineered problem.

As of late, eThekwini Municipality residents have been asking themselves if the so-called water crisis is actually an act of man and not a breakage in the system, as the City has suggested.

There were a few factors to consider when hypothesising this theory, for one: who would benefit from a water crisis in the City?

Two; Who would suffer and end up paying if a water crisis engulfed the City?

Three; could someone actually create a problem to help a business or businesses flourish and how would they do that?

Talks of sabotage are not a recent affair in state infrastructure, but came to the surface last week, when residents in northern parts of eThekwini were left without water since last Monday.

It has been seven days and the City can not provide a conclusive answer as to where or what the problem is but have created an alternative solution by rerouting water from the Durban Heights facility in Reservoir Hills to the Umhlanga area.

One might ask themselves the question: how is it possible that a multi-billion Rand industry still uses old technology to find and resolve problems in the network?

But when you think about the financial benefits for some when using an older, outdated system which cannot detect leaks or drops in pressure and flow, it's not hard to come to the conclusion that the old system is being used on purpose.

IOL spoke to Vani Naicker, CEO of Chopper Tech, a water technology company that has been providing solutions to the state for the past two decades.

Chopper Tech is involved in the data transmissions from water sources across the country.

Naicker said that over three years ago, Chopper Tech presented to the eThekwini Municipality with a solution to both the billing issue and poor detection methods the City has been struggling with.

Below, a figure representing the Chopper Tech’s water distribution system is depicted. Picture: Supplied.

“It was over three years ago, we approached eThekwini with Chopper Tech’s real time monitoring system. We designed and manufactured the data log and the daily transmission network.

“If they installed the auditing system we proposed, they would have had a daily water balance. They would have known exactly how much water they have at all times, know exactly how much water leaves a reservoir and know exactly where the leaks are.

“The daily balance of water meters will tell you exactly how much water was received by clients and how much was lost on the distribution network.

“The system itself has an alarm, so if there is water loss, it will set off the alarm,” Naicker said.

The Chopper Tech CEO said that their water billing system proved to be a success, as the data transmissions were verified through water meters they installed in the Durban North area.

An envisioned Chopper Tech water network system utlising their latest technology. Picture: Supplied.

Both the Democratic Alliance and the African Democratic Change in Durban suspect that sabotage is a contributing factor to the eThekwini Water crisis.

The eThekwini Municipality first acknowledged that the current dry spell could be an act of sabotage over the weekend and said that it opened up a case at the Greenwood Park Police Station.

The water outage has affected residents from Durban North all the way up to the coast to Umhlanga Rocks, the busiest tourist destination in the metropolitan area.

“The elements of sabotage are suspected after technical teams discovered an air valve in a water pipeline that was tampered with and another valve was vandalised…

“No major water leaks or burst pipes supplying these areas have been detected,” the City said.

So why has the eThekwini Municipality not updated its water system?

The City could argue that financial constraints make the development impossible.

However, that it is the same City that rocked up R1.5 billion in irregular expenditure last year, according to the Auditor-General.

IOL has posed questions to the City regarding the water system and are awaiting their reply.

On Monday, the City staged another public relations stunt to portray themselves as a productive state by visiting affected areas, but residents who have been left without water since last week, think the complete opposite.

Last Thursday, IOL reported on some of the residents who were left high and dry when their taps ran empty and were forced to leave their homes and collect water from family members and visiting water tankers, despite most of them paying for water delivery.

It is unclear when the problem will be fixed but tensions between residents and the City are growing.