Cash flowing down the drain

Amil Umraw, The Witness

Pietermaritzburg- Even with KZN declared a drought disaster zone, millions of litres of water is being wasted locally every day through ruptures in aged water infrastructure.

While almost a third of Msunduzi’s water goes down the drain, according to uMgungundlovu (UMDM) District Municipality spokesperson Mbali Mwandla, in the 2014/2015 financial year, during their annual audit, it was ­revealed that 46% of the district’s water supply was lost.

This is equivalent to R32 million in revenue for the municipality.

Mwandla said the primary causes of water losses are old and frail ­infrastructure, illegal connections, an ­increase in demand due to growing ­population and vandalism.

Although this was a slight decrease from the same period in the 2013/2014 financial year — when the municipality reported a 55% water loss translating to about R38 million in wasted revenue — Mbali said the district is still “strongly contemplating” implementing water ­rationing.

Mwandla said the UMDM — which serves as a Water Service Authority for the uMshwathi, Umngeni, Richmond, Mpofana, Mkhambathini and Impendle local municipalities — is in consultation with Umgeni Water, their bulk water supplier, over a proposed water ­rationing plan.

“The water rationing plan will be communicated in due course to the ­public once implementation has been confirmed,” Mwandla said.

“At the moment, we are urging all our citizens to conserve this scarce ­resource.”

When asked if the municipality has any immediate plans to avoid the need for water rationing, Mwandla said the implementation of the Hilton & ­Merrivale Asbestos Cement ­Replacement Project will largely ­contribute towards reducing the water loss within the ­district.

However, this project is only set to be completed in 2017.

In Pietermaritzburg and surrounding areas that fall under the Msunduzi ­Municipality, a staggering 47 million ­litres of water is lost daily.

This is according to municipal spokesperson Nqobile Madonda, who was quoting figures from their last ­financial year.

According to Madonda, this equated to about R77 million in lost revenue for the local municipality.

She said current water loses were at 30.8% as of October.

Madonda said an analysis was done on the “burst frequency” of municipal pipelines in 2013 and revised again early this year. The findings proved ageing ­infrastructure to be the primary reason for high leakage rates and water loss.

“To this end a business plan was drafted and accepted by the municipality’s Executive Committee which would budget approximately R614 million over the next 10 years to actively replace 436km of ageing pipelines,” Madonda said.

However, as a short- to medium-term resolution, Madonda said “active” leak detection repairs are taking place and last year 3 398 km of pipelines were ­surveyed and 3 136 visible and non-visible leaks were found and repaired.

“This is in addition to the burst pipes that are reported by the public on a daily basis,” Madonda said.

Also, according to the analysis, most of the leaks found by the active leak ­detection programme are in informal settlements and township areas.

Madonda said in these areas, due to various social and economic reasons, residents do not report bursts or leaks that are visible and only once they are found by active leak detection surveys do they get repaired.
“As a rule the municipality always ­repairs bursts and leaks within 48 hours of them being reported. If not reported the leaks could continue on for longer than six months in certain rare cases,” Madonda said.

The Witness