Water woes in areas north of Durban cause outcry

Residents of Phoenix and Trenance Park in Verulam were among thousands of residents north of Durban affected by water outage over the past week. Picture: Facebook

Residents of Phoenix and Trenance Park in Verulam were among thousands of residents north of Durban affected by water outage over the past week. Picture: Facebook

Published Nov 22, 2023


THE lack of maintenance of the Durban Heights reservoir has resulted in taps running dry in Umhlanga, Phoenix, Verulam and Tongaat.

The eThekwini Municipality said the problem was caused by a power failure which had affected the Durban Heights treatment works.

Gugu Sisilana, the city spokesperson, said: “This resulted in reduced volumes to the northern aqueduct. A total shutdown will take place from Tuesday (November 21). On completion this will ensure sufficient volumes to the reservoir and will eliminate reliance on power supply,” she said.

“It will take approximately seven days after this shutdown, for the system to fully recover. The area has a supply, albeit intermittent.”

Households in Phoenix and Trenance Park in Verulam have been hardest hit by the water outages.

Local councillors claimed that the aged water infrastructure had compounded the problem.

Since the April 2022 floods, when a lot of the water infrastructure had been either damaged or destroyed, water shedding had become a regular occurrence to allow for maintenance, the councillors said.

They said the recent problem was due to failure by the city to maintain the Durban Heights reservoir.

The Durban Heights Reservoir 3, feeds all the other systems, including Phoenix 2 and Phoenix 3 reservoirs, running down to Mountview and Trenance Park reservoirs in Verulam, and others, the councillors said.

They added that the absence of municipal water tankers was also a challenge.

Lyndal Singh, councillor for Ward 50 in Phoenix, said the outages had been particularly bad in the past week.

“We had outages for Phoenix Reservoir 2, which supplies my ward and part of Wards 49 and 51, since November 9. Some areas have gone without water for a full two days.”

Singh said by last week they were getting intermittent supply in some areas for a few hours at a time.

“The other issue is that water tankers are rarely sent out to us. On some days we are just provided one or two tankers which makes it impossible for us to actually cater for 25 000 to 30 000 people per ward. As public representatives, it is becoming increasingly difficult to manage the situation.

“Very little information is provided by the municipality. We attended meetings with the municipality’s water department officials on Friday. They (eThekwini) could not clarify what the exact problem was. So what do we tell residents? These issues have effectively been going on for two and a half years. When will the city actually have an action plan?”

Johnson Chetty, councillor for ward 106 in Verulam, said from Wednesday to Friday last week several areas in his ward and surrounding areas were still without water including Trenance Park and informal areas close to it, Ocean Ridge, Dawnrest, Mountview, and portions of Lotusville.

“Some areas got water intermittently for a few hours, mainly in the early hours of the morning, but by 6am taps had run dry again. My ward is serviced by three reservoirs; Waterloo, Grange and the Mountview Reservoir - which is the main reservoir in this vicinity,” he said.

“Mountview needs to maintain adequate capacity before it is pumped through to the reservoirs in Trenance Park. Because Trenance Park 1 is getting limited supply, it is inadequate to pump through to the Trenance Park 3 reservoir.

“At any given time, supply at Mountview is average, Trenance Park 1 is below average and Trenance Park 3 is critical. Residents who are fed directly off Mountview generally have water in their taps for much longer, than Trenance Park 1.

“The worst affected area is Trenance Park 3. These residents sometimes don't have water for days, sometimes weeks at a time. We don't want to hear any more excuses about issues with labour, budgets, and ageing infrastructure. People just want to know when they will have regular water supply in their taps,” said Johnson.

Dolly Munien, councillor for ward 61 in Tongaat, said the whole of Belvedere and the south areas had mostly been affected with no water from November to 10 to 12.

As of Friday Buffelsdale was still out, she said.

“The city does not send enough tankers out. I have 17 roads in my ward alone, and they give me one tanker, that is not sufficient supply for the community.”

DA eThekwini EXCO member, Yogis Govender, met with water department officials on Friday.

She said: “Around 55% of water supply is lost through leaks in eThekwini, power outages and poor infrastructure. More than half of the water that residents pay for does not reach them. Someone must account for this.

“There also appears to be conflicting information from bulk water supplier Umngeni-Uthukela to that supplied by eThekwini officials about who exactly is to blame for the persisting water outages.

“EThekwini should be receiving about 300 megalitres of water from the water board, however, the city is only getting a third of this. This has severely impacted thousands of households as the output from Durban Heights is wholly insufficient,” said Govender.

Local businessman Ricky Naidoo, owner of Venk-Pac, has been assisting communities with water trucks consistently since the April 2022 floods.

“It's just a disaster all around. My trucks have been concentrated mainly in Phoenix and Trenance Park. We send around two or three trucks to Phoenix every night. When the trucks finish they go to other areas in need. Communities are told that reservoirs are low but nobody can explain why.”