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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

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More South African cities are likely to run out of water, UFS academic says

Image: Pexels

Image: Pexels

Published Jun 30, 2022

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Durban - With Eastern Cape’s capital city of Gqeberha facing the threat of Day Zero – when taps run dry – a water expert from the University of the Free State (UFS) says that other coastal cities in South Africa may face the same fate.

Professor Anthony Turton from UFS’ Centre for Environmental Management said water scarcity is a reality for other cities as well, as eThekwini Municipality is already making use of water shedding.

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Turton said the water shortages will have a devastating effect on the economy, and in his opinion “Gqeberha’s local economy will not survive as we once knew it.”

The KwaZulu-Natal economy, which has suffered heavily under the might of the Covid-19 pandemic, civil unrest last year and most recently, the two flooding incidents, may also be susceptible to shocks in the face of the water shortages.

Turton said he remains hopeful about the situation but issues need to be fixed before it hits rock bottom.

The UFS Professor believes that the problem has gotten to such a dire stage because the ruling party has flushed all of the technically competent people from the system.

“Durban will now be water shedding for at least the next year as it struggles to restore services. All coastal cities have run out of water. By 2025 there was projected to be a national deficit of 2044 million m³ per annum. Note the KwaZulu-Natal deficit is over 700 m³. Note the only surplus was from sewage flows into the Crocodile. This was all known in 2002. All those projections have been true.

“Water for drinking is small water – only 2 litre per person per day. Water for living is medium water – 200 litres per person per day. Water for food is big water – 2 000 litres per person per day. We will starve before we die of thirst,” Turton said.

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Durban’s water shortages came after the floods in April had damaged infrastructure at the Durban Heights Water Treatment Plant, which is managed by Umgeni Water. The treatment facility supplies water throughout the eThekwini region.

During the flood in April, two large aqueducts that supply hundreds of megalitres to the treatment facility with water from the Nagle Dam, were destroyed.

Earlier this month, Municipal spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela, said water rationing was necessary due to reduced water supply from the Durban Heights Water Treatment Plant.

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“This shortfall has been caused, and will remain for the next 10-12 months, because Umgeni Water is unable to receive adequate raw water from Nagle Dam. This is because of extensive damage to two raw water pipelines during the April 2022 heavy rainfall,” Mayisela said in a statement.

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