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Monday Dec 15, 2014

Water restrictions loom for Durban

eThekwini residents and visitors to the province need divine intervention from the water gods, or drastically reduce their water consumption in the next three weeks to avoid facing cuts - similar to load shedding.

eThekwini Municipality issued a barrage of messages on social media yesterday, urgently warning residents to reduce their consumption. The warning came as thousands of holidaymakers begin to arrive in Durban, uMhlanga Rocks and Ballito for their annual holidays.

"URGENT NOTICE: We will continue to monitor the water consumption over the course of the week and should the situation not improve, we will then be left with no option but to impose water curtailment as indicated on this schedule. #SaveWater", said a message on the municipality's official Facebook and Twitter accounts.

A schedule of affected areas, which includes King Shaka International Airport, Sibaya Casino, Verulam CBD, La Mercy, the LIV School, Canelands Industrial area, Westbrook, Desainagar and hotels along that stretch of the beach, has been posted online and distributed in public areas.

In an emergency meeting earlier this week, the Joint Drought Planning Committee, which includes Umgeni Water, eThekwini Metro, iLembe District Municipality and Sembcorp Siza Water, agreed in principle to institute a "time of use" curtailment measure to stop Hazelmere Dam from falling to 35 percent, which is the lowest it can afford to go to before water supply reaches its most critical stage. As of yesterday, the dam was sitting at 40 percent and the level of Hazelmere Dam is reducing on average by 1 percent every seven days.

The time of use measure was only agreed to at the emergency meeting earlier this week after the initial calls to save water, of up to 30 percent, did not materialise.

Shami Harichunder, spokesman for Umgeni Water, said about two months ago a decision was taken to apply level one restriction when the water authorities saw that because of lack of rains, the dam levels were falling.

"The intended result was a curtailment in demand of 10 percent collectively across all three water services authorities. However, this was not achieved and a decision was subsequently taken to apply level 2 restrictions to produce saving of 20 percent. Due to the continued decline in the storage at Hazelmere Dam, the drought planning committee agreed to impose level 3 restrictions with a view to achieving 30 percent reduction in demand...a level 3 saving of 30 percent had still not been achieved.

"It was not an easy decision to make, especially as this period falls within the festive season, but the bigger picture is that we are in the midst of a drought."

Tozi Mthethwa, eThekwini head of communications, said the "municipality has made numerous announcements including posting information online and on social media, requesting the public to voluntarily reduce water consumption by 30 percent as a result of water shortages in Hazelmere Dam".

To mitigate the drought situation, said Mthethwa, the municipality had arranged an alternative through the reversal of supply from Mount View Reservoir to Grange Reservoir as a short intervention.

"The municipality will continue to monitor consumption over the course of the week, and should the situation not improve, we will be left with no option but to impose water curtailment as indicated on the schedule."

Curtailment operates on the same principle as load shedding, where a certain area will be without water for a specified time, as per a schedule.

Head of the eThekwini water and sanitation unit, EdnickMsweli, said the municipality had predicted that the time of use measure might only be implemented in three weeks' time. "There are no forecasts for heavy rains in this time, and while people are urged to save, there is a very likely possibility that the schedule will be enforced. We urge visitors to the province to co-operate with us and save water with us."

Airports Company of South Africa spokesman Colin Naidoo said King Shaka International Airport implemented contingency plans after it had been informed about the water crisis. "We have a standby process. Our water supplies are ready."

The airport, he said, had ensured that it had ample water for drinking, restaurants and toilets.

"We have bottled water for drinking and the municipality will also assist us with the water trucks for restaurant and toilet water," he said, urging customers not to be alarmed by the looming shortage.

Sibaya Casino public relations manager Mohnish Ramgovind said it had "everything under control", refusing to divulge the plans.

Cheryl Peters, marketing and communications manager at Enterprise iLembe on the north coast, said they were expecting in excess of 100 000 visitors over the festive season.

"Our hospitality facilities are 95 percent booked, but we are still on a level 3 alert for restrictions where people have to avoid the excess usage of water such as not using hose pipes, or face fines."

Some people have already been fined.

"Everyone is doing their best to reduce water usage, and we are hoping that the situation does not get worse, but it is out of our control."

Letizia Milani, owner of the Five Burnham guest house in uMhlanga, decided to install a Water to Air machine to ensure she had a continuous supply of water, in the light of the recent water crisis.

Ray de Vries, who sells the machines, said he had been inundated with calls for the machine, especially from the northern areas such as Ballito.

Ward councillor for the uMhlanga area, Heinz de Boer, said that the water crisis had come at the worst time - just when the area would see thousands of visitors flock to the beaches.

"I have still seen people use hose pipes in their yards. We can only hope that people comply with the calls to reduce water usage," he said.

The Independent on Saturday


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