eThekwini Water Crisis: Mayor unveils plan as tap water dries up for close to 100 days in some communities

Head of Water and Sanitation Ednick Msweli, Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda, and City Manager Musa Mbhele. Picture: Thuli Dlamini

Head of Water and Sanitation Ednick Msweli, Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda, and City Manager Musa Mbhele. Picture: Thuli Dlamini

Published Jan 25, 2024


As residents in areas the north and south of Durban continue to endure life without water from their taps - some for nearly 100 days now - eThekwini Mayor, Mxolisi Kaunda, presented a plan on the municipality's efforts to tackle the pressing water supply challenges and infrastructure damages caused by the recent devastating heavy rains.

At a media briefing on Thursday, the embattled mayor outlined both short-term interventions and long-term strategies to ensure reliable water access for the city's over four million residents.

Residents living in northern eThekwini have had to deal with constant water outages and the lack of potable water throughout 2023, while Verulam residents in Trenance Park have been without water for almost 100 days.

Kaunda said that while the majority of people living in eThekwini had access to water, rapid urbanisation, ageing infrastructure, and vandalism have strained the city’s resources.

He provided an account of the water supply in various regions:

  • Inner West Region: 95% water supply, with Nagina, Birchwood, and Mariannridge still affected.
  • Outer West Region: 75% supply; waterless areas include parts of KwaXimba, Sankontshe, and others.
  • Central Region: 100% supply.
  • South Region: 80% supply; challenges in KwaMakhutha, Adams Mission, among others.
  • North Region: 80% supply; issues in Inanda, Ntuzuma, and others.

The mayor attributed these issues to recent flood damage, ageing infrastructure, and vandalism, pleading with communities to protect municipal infrastructure.

The South Region is a particular focus, with plans to repair the 24km Southern Aqueduct within 12 months at a cost of R1.2 billion.

This project aims to improve water supply in various areas, including Chatsworth and uMlazi.

In the north, a fire-damaged pump station in Ntuzuma, operating at half capacity, is set for a R35 million upgrade.

The recent rains also impacted water quality at Hazelmere Water Works, affecting areas like Waterloo and Ottawa.

However, repair work has restored water supply to most affected areas.

Phoenix and Verulam face water constraints due to issues with the Northern Aqueduct, Kaundau said.

Interventions include checking for leaks and changing the bulk supply source. Community meetings are planned to discuss these challenges.

In oThongathi, an alternate supply has been established, although it's a temporary solution.

The KwaXimba area is also facing supply challenges with an ongoing upgrade to the trunk main.

Mayor Kaunda highlighted the construction of the Upper Umkhomazi Dam as a long-term solution.

Meanwhile, to manage immediate needs, the city is increasing water tanker numbers and drilling boreholes, especially in rural areas.

Two water reuse projects are also in pilot stages.

The mayor shared the devastating impact of the recent heavy rains, with infrastructure damage costing R1.4 billion and the tragic loss of nine lives.

Efforts are ongoing to repair roads and other infrastructure, and electricity supply has been largely restored.

Kaunda apologised for the inconvenience caused.

“As the leadership of eThekwini, we wish to apologise to the residents of the city for the inconvenience caused by the current situation. We want to assure you that we will not rest until we have restored the supply of clean water in every community,” he said.

He appealed for cooperation, highlighting the importance of allowing municipal workers to perform their duties unhindered.

Meanwhile, the DA’s spokesman for Economic Development in KZN, Heinz De Boer, said the water outages in Durban have been a blow to businesses and ratepayers who are fleeing the “crippled ANC-run eThekwini”.

“Manufacturing, health care, the food industry, and small businesses have been hard hit by almost two years of intermittent water cuts and empty reservoirs. Several protests this week have also shown the sheer frustration of residents, some of whom have not had piped water for almost 100 days. Approximately one million Durban residents are affected by the crisis,” De Boer said.

Business districts in Tongaat, Verulam, Umhlanga, Phoenix, and Durban North have not only borne the brunt of load shedding but now have to contend with constant water cuts, he noted.

“This comes in the wake of a bumper tourism season in the DA-run Western Cape, while Durban beaches were awash in sewerage. The DA has repeatedly stated that placing the failing eThekwini Municipality under competent administration and firing the Head of eThekwini Water, Ednick Msweli, will be its first order of business if elected into government come May 2024,” De Boer said.

The DA will outline plans on Monday around the motion to dissolve the eThekwini council, which will be voted on January 31, 2024.

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