Maritzburg’s taps have run dry

Brenden Sivparsad. Picture: Public Eye

Brenden Sivparsad. Picture: Public Eye

Large parts of KZN’s capital have been without a drop of water, and it may be a foretaste of what other SA cities can expect.

Large parts of Pietermaritzburg have been left without water for almost a week as a result of the drought, serious structural problems at Umgeni Water and burst pipes, compounded by the theft of water meters, Public Eye has reported.

Edendale, Bisley, portions of Copesville, Oribi, Pelham, Prestbury and Scottsville residents remained without water supply since Monday and restoration only looked possible by Friday evening or Saturday morning.

By Thursday afternoon, the water outage spread to parts of Chase Valley and the northern suburbs after a road construction grader hit a bulk water supply pipe in Connor Road. As a result, the Hathorne reservoir had to be shut down to facilitate minimal water loss and repairs to the pipe.

Acting water and sanitation manager Brenden Sivparsad said this week had been particularly trying.

“Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. Umgeni Water had three major issues this week – first it was a problem with their filter system, then they had to shut down the DV Harris Water Works and then their raw water pipeline that filters water from the dam had a problem. This resulted in less than usual water being supplied to the city and reservoirs running dry,” said Sivparsad.

Exacerbating that problem was two bulk water pipes in Alexander Road and Camp’s Drift that burst from Sunday.

“In order for those areas to receive water now, we have to shut down the industrial area and we are just awaiting the go-ahead for that,” said Sivparsad late on Thursday.

The municipality is now struggling to recharge their systems after the unforeseen water supply shortage from Umgeni.

“There are extreme issues that we are now facing due to the water crisis such as the airport being affected by water cuts in the Oribi area. Planes are not allowed to depart or land unless water is available at the airport. It is extremely difficult to station water tankers in every area that has been affected by the water crisis. The municipality has 29 tankers that we use to feed different areas in the community, of which twenty of the tankers are sent out to the Edendale area. We understand that it is difficult for the community to be fed by portable water supplies but we are trying our utmost best to repair burst pipes and leaks as quickly as possible,” said Sivparsad.

He said, however, this was a taste of the future if residents did not pay heed to warnings to reduce their water consumption.

“The writing is on the wall. This is what people are going to be subjected to if they do not stop using water luxuriously. The bottom line is Umgeni Water is supplying us 15 % less water – consumers need to use 15% less otherwise reservoirs are definitely going to run dry more often than not,” said Sivparsad.

Compounding the water shortage in the city, however, was the common theft of brass water meters in Copesville, which resulted in the damage of water infrastructure and leaking pipes. In addition, water tankers, supplying Edendale (that has been without water for the past four months as it is based in a high-lying area) are being hijacked, stoned and forced to empty their load of water at specific spots instead of supplying the entire area.

The Copesville area has been most affected by the theft of their water meters as 50 meters in total have been stolen in the space of a week.

“As a preventative measure, the municipality has been replacing the original brass meters with plastic meters so that theft does not occur. The municipality has replaced 120 meters thus far in the month so that we are able to save cost in the future. Sometimes members of the community are mistaken that there is a lack of water in the Copesville, reservoir but this is not so. When meters are stolen, we have to shut the lines just so that we can replace the meters so members of the community are billed correctly for their usage. It is a long administrative process that we have to go through just to replace one meter, so the community needs to understand the long processes attached to these replacements,” said Sivparsad.

Members of the community that have not received water for a few months have resorted to hijacking and threatening  water tanker drivers in order to receive all the water their tanks carry. The municipality now has to send out security guards with the tankers in dangerous areas.

– Caxton News Service

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