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Blue Drop watch report details state of KwaZulu

Jan 21, 2024

Written by

Thami Magubane

By Thami Magubane

The water report looked at the technical overview of pipes, pumps, reservoirs, processes and water quality of water treatment plants and distribution networks. File Picture: African News Agency (ANA) Archives.

Published Jun 8, 2023

Written by

Thami Magubane

By Thami Magubane

| Published Jun 8, 2023


Durban - A new report looking into the functionality of water systems across the country has produced a mixed bag of results for KwaZulu-Natal, with some systems found to be supplying quality potable water to residents, while there were concerns with others.

The Blue Drop Watch Report was published by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) this week, and details the state of the province's water networks.

It is informed by Technical Site Assessments (TSAs) that were done at one to two systems per Water Services Authority as part of the Blue Drop audit cycle.

The water report looked at the technical overview of pipes, pumps, reservoirs, processes and water quality of water treatment plants and distribution networks.

The TSA scores the systems for different aspects and the score given reflects the condition of the raw water handling system (abstraction, pumps, pipe network), the water treatment plants (inlet works to disinfection and sludge treatment), delivery system (commend reservoirs, bulk pipe network and pump stations) and distribution systems (pump and pipe networks).

A high score indicates that the infrastructure, equipment and processes are in excellent condition, while a low TSA score indicates failure and dysfunctional processes and infrastructure.

It is based on the physical assessment of these systems. The report is based on a sample of systems that were assessed.

Msunduzi was found to have the best water infrastructure and water distribution network in the province.

The water supply system at Midmar Dam was scored at 95%, the highest in the province, and eThekwini was at 79% at its Kloof system.

Painting the overall picture, the report read: "An average of 71% was achieved for the 15 systems assessed (in municipalities and water boards), which means that infrastructure and processes are partially functional with an average performance."

The top four systems with the best condition are Msunduzi managed by Umgeni Water (excellent 95-100%); Nsezi managed by Mhlathuze Water, Ladysmith managed by uThukela, and Ngagane managed by uThukela Water (good 80-95%).

It highlighted a concern that at least two systems in the Impendle local Municipality (under UMgungundlovu District Municipality) and Durnacol in the Amajuba district scored 50% and 49% respectively in the technical assessment.

The TSA report said the DWS had observed the predominant challenges and risks pertaining to the water supply system during the assessment, which included:

In the water distribution network, challenges found included:

An amount of R372 million had to be invested in the systems that were assessed to ensure they function optimally. The investment was required to restore existing treatment infrastructure to its original design capacity and operations by addressing civil, mechanical, electrical and instrumentation defects, read the report.

Despite the report finding that most water systems were in good working order, it raised concerns about the quality of the water in some systems.

"The TSA and water quality results depict a different picture," said the report, adding: "The TSA shows 14 of the 15 water supply systems to be in the excellent to average performance category, and the water quality compliance shows that 27-60% of the systems fail to produce compliant final water quality."

In the water quality assessment, the report found that eThekwini and Msunduzi met the SANS 241:2015 drinking water standards.

EThekwini had achieved 99.90% in microbiological compliance and 99.77% in chemical compliance.

Msunduzi had also achieved 99.90% in microbiological compliance and 99.93% in chemical compliance.

For the Sundumbili water system, Greater Mthonjaneni Water Treatment Works (WTW) and Ulundi water system it was noted that the water quality does not meet the SANS 241:2015 drinking water standards as of March 29, 2023.

Others met the standards for microbiological compliance but not chemical compliance, including Bhobhoyi water system in the Ugu District, Impendle Spring Protection water system, Mtubatuba water system, Vants Drift WTW in uMzinyathi, Ladysmith WTP and Durnacol in Amajuba.

The uMzingazi water supply/treatment system met the standard for chemical compliance but not for microbiological compliance.

Professor Faizal Bux, director of the Institute of Water and Wastewater Technology at the Durban University of Technology, said the return of the assessments was welcome as this was the only system in place to monitor the performance of water service institutions.

"In 2014, DWS stopped the Blue and Green Drop programme used to audit the performance of our water and wastewater treatment plants. In 2022, DWS released the 2022 Green Drop Report and the 2022 Blue Drop Progress report.

"Minister Senzo Mchunu should be commended in re-introducing the audit programme to track the performance of this critical infrastructure. This is the only system currently in place to monitor the performance of water service institutions."

He said that in terms of water quality compliance in KZN the situation was concerning, and if it was not addressed immediately, it could have serious health implications for the citizens of KZN.

"The report highlights the challenges faced by water service providers in KZN in delivering good quality drinking water to its citizens. However, the problem could be more pronounced in smaller and rural municipalities where the drinking water may not meet potable standards.

"In the larger metros such as eThekwini which supplies Durban with drinking water, independent tests conducted recently have confirmed that the water meets SANS 241 microbiological water quality standards and therefore is potable," he said.


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