With soaring temperatures in Durban, fears are rising about the health risks associated with the lack of water in some areas in eThekwini

Major water outages continue in the eThekwini region with taps running dry in Tongaat, Verulam, Phoenix and Umhlanga for two weeks.

Taps are running dry.

Published Dec 1, 2023


Major water outages continue unabated in the eThekwini region with taps running dry in Tongaat, Verulam, Phoenix and Umhlanga for two weeks.

With soaring temperatures in Durban, fears are rising for health risks associated with the lack of water.

A week ago, the Durban Heights Treatment Works was shut down in a bid to improve water supply to areas north of the city.

Thirty-three reservoirs are reportedly still affected with irregular water supply.

To add to the residents' woes, municipal water tankers are not adequately servicing these areas, according to ward councillors in Verulam, Tongaat, Umhlanga and Phoenix.

Last week, city spokesperson, Gugu Sisilana, said the problem was caused by a power failure, which affected the Durban Heights Treatment Works, resulting in reduced volumes to the Northern aqueduct.

An 18-hour total shutdown was undertaken, with the hope that it would take approximately seven to 10 days after the shutdown for the system to fully recover. But as of Friday, some areas were still with dry taps, or scant intermittent supply.

Lyndal Singh, councillor for Ward 50 in Phoenix, said: “There are 33 reservoirs that are affected and none have a proper or stable water supply. Water trucks are another issue. We either do not get them or we get one truck to service thousands of people.”

Councillors in Wards 49, 51 and 52 in Phoenix also reported regular water outages with no prior warning, sometimes for the day and night, for the past three months.

Maggie Johnson, the Ward 51 councillor, said their reservoir was also not filling up.

Johnson Chetty, Ward 106 councillor in Verulam, said: “We are struggling. We are just not getting adequate supply to meet the demands in the northern areas. We are not getting a straight answer about what is going on. The crisis is far from over. We have people in Valleyview Drive in Redcliffe, who have gone 16 days with not a drop of water in their tap. Then there is Madrona Drive in Trenance Park with the same scenario. In my ward, we have had water intermittently. But we still have to collect and keep it as sometimes it shuts off with no warning.

“Looking at the water levels in our reservoirs, it is a disaster waiting to happen. We as councillors get daily water level reports and our reservoir has been under the 2m mark. Anything below 2m poses a concern with the presence of silt contaminated water getting into the line,” said Chetty.

Dolly Munien, Ward 61 councillor in Tongaat, said their water situation was bad.

“Last week, I had five burst pipes within a 100m length in one area. This led to further delays in supply. It took a week to fix. On Tuesday, I had another burst pipe in the same area. Buffelsdale, Flamingo Heights, Chelmsford Heights, Mithanagar, Mitchell Village and Havencrest have been affected. It is hot and we do not have water tankers. This could be a serious health risk.”

Shontel De Boer, Ward 36 councillor in Durban North, said every weekend from Thursday/Friday to Sunday/Monday, her area has had no water.

“Water supply from Virginia reservoir runs out resulting in shutting of outlet valves. It takes days before everyone receives supply, especially in the high-lying areas.”

Councillor Yogis Govender, DA eThekwini Exco member, said: “The worst hit areas of recent have been Phoenix, Umhlanga, Durban North, and Verulam, particularly the areas of Trenance Park and Redcliffe.

“The eThekwini water crisis is spanning almost a decade now with no end in sight. The water crisis is one of the major factors that led to the DA calling for the dissolution of the eThekwini council, as the current coalition is running the city into the ground.”

The city referred the POST to uMngeni-Uthukela Water (UUW) for querries on the continued issues. UUW did not respond to questions at the time of going to press.

However, in a statement on eThekwini Municipality’s Facebook page on November 24, the city said: “We are aware of water challenges currently being experienced in some parts of the North and South areas of Durban following the recent planned shutdown of the Durban Heights Water Treatment Works by uMngeni-uThukela Water due to maintenance work.

“This is due to a delay in the recovery of water levels in our reservoirs following the shutdown. Our technical teams are continuously monitoring the reservoir levels. In the meantime, residents will continue to be supplied with water tankers. We apologise for the inconvenience caused.”