Desalination: still no conclusion

Shannon Hopkins
November 26, 2015
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While many alternatives have been implemented to supplement strained water supply on the North Coast, the option of desalination is still under investigation.

 

Shami Harichunder, Corporate Stakeholder Manager of Umgeni Water, said on the subject of possible establishment of desalination plants, one in the north of eThekwini and the other in the south of eThekwini, the feasibility studies into both have been completed.

 
“Umgeni Water is now in the process of preparing for environment impact assessments, a process that is expected to be completed by mid 2016,” he said.

 
Before a decision is taken on whether to go ahead or not with the establishment of one or both desalination plants, the cost of establishment will be compared to the cost of establishment of other means of water abstraction and treatment, such as the construction of dams and water treatment plants, he added.

 
“If the cost of establishment of a desalination plant is found to be more expensive than the construction of dams and water treatment plants, then desalination will obviously not be pursued as an option,” said Harichunder.
In the meantime the level of Hazelmere Dam is currently at a little over 25% full. Other water sources are also drying up. Harichunder said the transfer of water from uThongathi River to Hazelmere Dam via a 7, 5km emergency pipeline continues to occur, but in reduced amounts because of the low level of the river. The Tugela river, the site of a bulk water project aimed at reducing the strain, is also reported to be low.

 
“The water resources available in Hazelmere Dam remain of concern to Umgeni Water; therefore potable water production at Hazelmere Water Treatment Plant has been cut by 50% in order to ensure that water in the dam lasts until the next rains,” he said.

 
“Every effort will be made by Umgeni Water to ensure the limited resource in Hazelmere Dam lasts for as long as possible or until the next rains.”

 
The situation at Umvoti Water Treatment Plant, in Groutville, Stanger, is also of great concern to Umgeni Water. The level of the Umvoti River – which is the source of supply to Umvoti Water Treatment Plant – is extremely low. Haricunder explained. This has resulted in a situation in which there is insufficient water available to treat at Umvoti Water Treatment Plant in order to meet normal demand. As a consequence, Umgeni Water has only been able to supply iLembe District Municipality 4Ml/d (4 million litres of potable water per day) against an average of 18Ml/d (18 million litres of potable water per day). This has resulted in the application of water restrictions within the Umvoti Water Treatment Plant supply areas – Stanger and Blythedale.

 
“The need to conserve and use water sparingly has again been illustrated by the current drought, which is a consequence of the El Nino effect.”

 
The drought being experienced is widespread and has affected many parts of KwaZulu-Natal, including the uThukela River catchment. The Lower Thukela Bulk Water Supply Scheme, presently under construction in Mandeni at a cost of R1, 4 billion, is on stream to be completed in the first quarter of 2016.
This scheme will abstract water from the uThukela River, treat it and will be able take it as far south as Ballito. When this scheme begins supplying water to Ballito, more water will become available in Hazelmere Dam for provision to eThekwini and iLembe DM.

 
As a consequence of the drought, Umgeni Water has had to implement three emergency schemes at a total cost of approximately R100 million. These schemes are a pump station and water transfer pipeline (uThongathi River-Hazelmere Dam); water transfer from Hlimbithwa River to Imvutshane River in Maphumulo, and the transfer scheme that moves water from the Mpambinyoni River to EJ Smith Dam in the Middle South Coast.

 
Local concession area service provider Sembcorp Siza Water have also implemented alternative supply, and promise there will be water for the busy December season. The lastest of which is the development of a recycling plant, situated near Zimbali, to allow the area to reuse grey water. Siza say the water is potable. This comes after residents had felt authorities were not doing enough to improve the situation.

 
The demand for water is expected to spike from 8 million litres to 19 million litres per day at the height of the season. The plant will allow for an extra 5 million litres at 10 cents a litre to residents.
Since the drought situation was recognised as an emergency towards the end of last year, residents have significantly reduced water use.

 
“”We wish to also commend these consumers for embracing the idea of utilising recycled water and thereby reducing the reliance on the potable system,” said Sembcorp Siza Water director Shyam Misra.

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