Umvoti Water Crisis

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The water supply to Greytown comes from Lake Merthley which is currently is at 33%. The Lake gets water from 6 springs which have become reduced in flow because of the drought. Over the past 10 months the level in the lake has been dropping because of the lack of rain. The plant usually produces an average of 5000 kilolitres per day and since the drought it has been reduced to 4000 kilo litres per day. The reduced consumption is due to the fact that the reservoirs are closed off at 10 pm and opened at 5 am. The reduction is 20% but the Department of Water and Sanitation wants the plant to produce a maximum of 2800 kilolitres per day to ensure that the lake does not dry up before the next winter.

The District Municipality has informed all communities to save water and some have heeded to the call but others did not. Awareness Education Programmes have been held to address the seriousness of the drought. The District municipality has passed a Council Resolution declaring a Disaster. More than 80% of the springs and boreholes have dried up. Water tankers are being used to deliver water to the affected communities in the Msinga, Nquthu, Endumeni and Umvoti Local Municipalities. The costs of operating 50 tankers is very high but it has to be done because of the drought. Sustainable alternatives are to be found by drilling of new borehole which is in progress.

On Saturday the 17 of May at 8 am the situation got worse when the level in the lake fell below the intake valve and air got into the line. The divers were called in to assess the intake points and valves in the dam wall.

The pipeline is now sucking air because of the low level in the dam. The air was restricting the flow to the treatment plant and a new air valves was installed on Sunday which has helped to increase the water flow rate. The divers were called on Monday to block the opening of the dam off the abstraction point to prevent air getting into the line. This has helped to improve the flow rate by Wednesday afternoon and most of the communities are getting water despite the reduced production levels. The plant was never shut down but was operating at a reduced level of 20% of the full capacity. Modifications also include the installation of a submersible pump in the dam for emergency use only

In the meantime there are 10 trucks which are supplying water in the Town and Township of Greytown since Saturday morning. Residents did experience hardships because of the disruptions but also rallied around with the Local Umvoti Municipal Leadership to find solutions to the challenges and put in the joint action plan by the District to alleviate the water shortages.

Meetings were held to communicate a disaster management plan that was approved by the Council. In terms of the plan the Municipalities will provide 65 JoJo Tanks at strategic points and this will allow consumers to collect water when the supply from the plant is closed off.

The community consultation meeting was held in Enhlalakahle and was well attended. The Mayor of Umvoti, Councillor T Ngubane impressed upon the community that the drought was going to be here for a long time and people had to save the only available water source which Lake Merthley. The community appreciated the initiatives being taken jointly and agreed to the drought action plan. The programme of war on leaks was launched and this will involve free repairs to water leaks in all private properties. The costs of the leak repair programme, 50 JoJo Tanks , 12 water tankers and other drought measures are being paid for by the District Municipality. The costs of 25 JoJo Tanks and labour for installing JoJo tanks will be met by Umvoti Local Municipality who will also contribute towards the public awareness campaigns and assist with implementation of the enforcement of the by-laws such as banning of hosepipes and wastage of water by car washes.

Further meeting will be held to inform the residents of the planned drought intervention before water is restricted during the day when all 65 JoJo tanks are in place. At a meeting in the Greytown Hall held on the 21 of May 2015, residents were addressed by the Mayor of Umvoti, Councillor T Ngubane. The key issues raised related to drought and the continued wastage of water by certain business such as car washes, the impact of water cuts during the day on business, schools and hospitals etc. The fear of vandalism of the water tanks and threat of contamination etc. was raised but the Mayor assured the community that the Protection Services and Disaster Management Team will be involved in monitoring and dealing with the Drought Situation in terms of the decision to declare a Disaster that was approved by Council on Wednesday. The Local Councilors will arrange public consultation meetings to address the concerns and determine appropriate measures in consultation with the Disaster Management Team.

The seriousness of the drought cannot be treated lightly, Greytown will run out of water if people use too much water and continue to waste water and do not respect it. Everyone must expect disruptions until the rains come. Residents are advised store rain water in tanks for washing cars and gardens including toilets. The Bulk line from Graigeburn Dam which costs of R400 million will only be ready in 2017 and will alleviate the water shortage in Greytown for the long term.

The situation at the water treatment plant has returned normal but production is reduced to ensure that we do not run out of water before the next summer rains. The Department of Water and Sanitation drought operating rules are in place in accordance with Drought Gazette.