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Salga sounds alarm bells over the water crisis faced by municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal

Salga in KwaZulu-Natal says the water crisis in the province is getting worse. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Salga in KwaZulu-Natal says the water crisis in the province is getting worse. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Aug 3, 2022

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Durban - The South African Local Government Association (Salga), KwaZulu-Natal chapter, is sounding alarm bells that most municipalities are facing a serious water challenge that, if not addressed urgently, some of them will run out of water.

The association says the water issue has been there for quite some time now.

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The pending crisis was exacerbated by the failure to maintain old infrastructure to some extent. It is worsened by non-payment for services and demand, which outstrips supply.

These revelations were made by Thami Ntuli, the chairperson of SALGA in KwaZulu-Natal, who is also mayor of the King Cetshwayo district municipality, which is headquartered in Richards Bay.

He was speaking in Durban on Wednesday while addressing a gathering of councillors in charge of water portfolios in their municipalities.

“It should be acknowledged that some of the factors that contributed to the current situation in local government are both historical (municipalities inherited old infrastructure that was due for replacement without funding) and a result of current practices (lack of maintenance and investment and shortage of skills), in this regard it is also important to refer to tendencies of irresponsible leadership in some municipalities,” Ntuli said.

Ntuli also told the gathering that they had identified several risks and challenges that require urgent attention by municipalities.

Among the challenges are pollution and unpaid water debts by consumers.

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“Water usage by consumers - it is observed that consumption in certain parts of the province, particularly in urban areas, exceeds supply. This situation, in some respect, put unnecessary pressure on municipalities to deliver water beyond their allocated water licences.

“Pollution and Management of Wastewater management - We wish to acknowledge that some of our wastewater facilities are a cause of concern as they pollute water courses.

“We all know that some municipalities’ wastewater facilities discharge effluent that is not in accordance to set standards and such causes pollution in our water courses. The consequence of such is an increase in treatment costs,” he said.

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Furthermore, he said leaks and the recent KwaZulu-Natal floods added a burden to the woes of municipalities.

“Over 40% of revenue is lost through leaking pipes, and illegal connections are a cause for concern. Estimates costs for such is in order of R9 billion per annum. Persistent Flooding – persistent flooding in KZN has led to distraction and collapse of our water infrastructure.

“Non-payment of services – such are at low levels compared to 2006. Consumers of payment level has reached 41% - such is a threat to the sustainability of the services by sector, particularly at the municipal level. Some consumers are connected but are not connected to the billing system of municipalities and there are even bulk consumers.”

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Meanwhile, the South African Human Rights Commission inquiry into access to water in KwaZulu-Natal will get underway in Durban on August 15, and it will run for five consecutive days.

The commission said the inquiry is a result of it being inundated with complaints relating to challenges of access to water in various districts in the province.

It added that this issue of poor or no access to water remains a current day-to-day challenge for many residents, communities, schools, businesses, and other organisations across the province.

The inquiry will be presided over by a panel that will comprise commissioner Philile Ntuli as its chairperson and commissioner Chris Nissen as deputy chairperson.

It shall inquire into, make findings, report on and make recommendations and/or directives concerning the following broad and overarching issues for investigation of the extent of the challenges experienced by the communities in KwaZulu-Natal relating to access to clean drinking water and the systemic nature of the violations.

It shall also look at the extent to which the organs of state have respected, protected, promoted, and fulfilled the right to sufficient water and the reasonableness of measures, including legislation, by-laws, policies, and programmes adopted by organs of state to ensure the realisation of the right to sufficient water.

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