Water Crisis: ratepayers want to avoid Day Zero in Durban

The eThekwini Ratepayers Protest Movement is doing everything in its power to avoid Day Zero in Durban because of the water crisis.

The eThekwini Ratepayers Protest Movement is doing everything in its power to avoid Day Zero in Durban because of the water crisis.

Published Feb 16, 2024


Durban — Eyebrows were raised when the eThekwini Ratepayers Protest Movement (ERPM) heard that Durban could soon see Day Zero because of the water crisis facing the city.

ERPM held a meeting with eThekwini Municipality water and sanitation officials recently, offering to partner with the City to find solutions.

ERPM chairperson Asad Gaffar said they raised the issues in the north of the city and ERPM discussed wastewater management and the supply and demand of water.

Gaffar said the Westville Ratepayers Association and ERPM warned the city, in 2023, that the city was heading towards major issues which included shortages of water and infrastructure collapse.

Gaffar reiterated that ERPM has been approached by businesses who are prepared to step in and assist in restoring water to the city, but they have no confidence in the metro’s practices.

Gaffar said ERPM was informed that more than 50% of the metro is a tribal trust area and there is no formal address base to appropriately meter and bill those areas.

Gaffar said they were informed by the city officials that there is no water coming into the city and that Day Zero is approaching.

Gaffar said while the current situation is affecting the north of the city, they are acutely aware that this will spread across the entire region if not attended to urgently.

eThekwini Municipality has conceded that it was unable to meet its own deadline to restore water to areas north of the city on Thursday.

During a media briefing on Wednesday, municipal manager Musa Mbhele said the government had undertaken to restore water to affected areas by February 15. The City also committed to completing work at the Northern Aqueduct.

He said the City has replaced 54 air valves. On the third section from Newlands to Phoenix, 31 air valves have been replaced and six are outstanding.

Mbhele explained that the completion of the replacement of the 31 valves in section 3 has improved (not yet fully resolved) the water supply to most parts of Phoenix, Mount Edgecombe, Virginia, uMhlanga and Durban North.

“The infrastructure surcharge on the bill was raised. The concern around the level of decay that has been established, brings into focus how this surcharge is being used for the repair of existing collapsed infrastructure,” Gaffar said.

ERPM estimates that it will take 20 to 30 years to effect these repairs if repairs start immediately. ERPM proposed a public-private partnership to assist the City in managing and kick-starting the process of regeneration of the water infrastructure. It also advised that some private business sponsors are prepared to come on board, provided that ERPM has oversight.

“The issue of water being a constitutional right and the need for the City to take this seriously was raised. The issue of raw sewage not only in the suburbs but in the townships has not been taken seriously and is getting worse and worse every day. A point needs to be reached where all communities are treated equally. The impact on our environment is being ignored,” Gaffar said.

Gaffar said issues need to be considered if infrastructure valued at R130 billion is in the ground and needs to be replaced. The other is social development for people below the poverty line who need service, and lastly to expand the city for developments to bring jobs and increase the rates base.

“A primary concern was that the budget for water needed to be ring-fenced to repair the issues faced. That hasn’t happened. It can’t be that revenue received for water is being diverted to other areas and a surcharge needs to be implemented,” Gaffar said.

ERPM is at the point where they have heard all this before but nothing has happened, said Gaffar.

He said the associations can share and crunch numbers with the City if they need to adjust tariffs to meet the demands of the people, then they need to be part of that discussion.

“But we can’t be talking about the department being profitable over the needs of the community. Public participation needs to be honoured. And extended into an oversight role. We shouldn’t be having the discussion of people not having water in 2024. We should be doing everything in our power to avoid Day Zero,” Gaffar said

Hibberdene residents in the Ugu District Municipality on the South Coast experienced dry taps for three months in 2022.

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