Six of the 12 broken water valves in Majakaneng, North West, have been repaired, the water and sanitation department said. Photo: Supplied

Durban - eThekwini Municipality is losing about 237 million litres of water a day. According to the auditor-general’s report for the 2013/2014 financial year released last week, these losses amount to R602.6 million.

It also admitted it is not winning the war against vandalism of the infrastructure around the city.

Spokeswoman Tozi Mthethwa said these acute losses were caused by illegal water connections, vandalism, and leaks not reported timeously.

“These shocking statistics were (first) revealed by eThekwini Mayor James Nxumalo last year, during a day-long visit to Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu where residents are most affected by a surge of illegal water connections and burst water pipes,” she said.

Mthethwa said the municipality’s water and sanitation unit has focused its attention on reducing the non-revenue water in the Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu area as well as improving the levels of supply for the communities.

She admitted that the water supply system in the area had deteriorated. She said the contributing factors were:

* Illegal water connections. Statistically, non-paying consumers use much more water than paying customers and repeatedly reconnect themselves after the municipality removes the illegal connection;

* There is rampant vandalism and theft of infrastructure;

* The security of staff is a major concern. Many incidents are occurring when staff are sent out to remove illegal connections, these include hijackings, damage to vehicles, intimidation, and robbery. One engineer was murdered in KwaMashu on July 29;

* Providing armed security guards is expensive and often guards are targeted;

* The areas have rapidly densified as thousands of people have migrated to these areas north of the city.

Amid a looming water shortage crisis in the province, Mthethwa said Premier Senzo Mchunu and MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nomusa Dube-Ncube were aware of the problems facing the municipality.

“They have supported the projects and educational initiatives such as ‘war on leaks’ which are aimed at educating communities on water saving and reporting water leaks.”

The mayor had said some improvements such as meter installation would be made once off.

Other interventions such as leak detection would have to be carried out repeatedly to stabilise the system.

Between 2007 and 2010, the municipality spent close to R2 billion on the asbestos cement pipe replacement project, which was part of the municipality’s water management strategy aimed at replacing ageing water pipes.

In its management response to the auditor-general, eThekwini said in line with its non-revenue water business plan it was implementing a number of water loss interventions.

The city said in the 2013/2014 financial year, 64 pressure reducing valves were installed and 120 installations had been planned for the 2014/2015 year.

“The leak detection and repair strategy with a total of 16 plumbers in formal and informal areas has proved successful; 15 567 leaks were repaired from the 6 716km of reticulation surveyed.”

Sunday Tribune