Eskom’s unprecedented stage 6 load shedding is now taking a toll on Umgeni Water’s ability to supply drinking water in Southern Africa. This news is raising concerns on the effects of Eskom’s electricity load shedding to the municipalities in Umgeni’s service areas that has left many consumers without an erratic supply of drinking water or no water for the duration of the power outages.
Umgeni Water, South Africa’s state water utility, made this revelation through a 1 700-word statement released on the 17th of April, 2023, pointing out that Stage 6 load shedding, which was once intermittent, is now being implemented more frequently, starting from Wednesday, April 12, 2023.
According to the statement, areas worst affected by the water supply failures through power grid outages are Vulindlela, Mpophomeni, and Hilton, all of which rely heavily on the Howick West Reservoir for potable water, the supply of which depends on electricity to be operated. Other areas suffering from long spells of little or no water are KwaHaza, KwaChief, Mashingini, and Impendle.
Umgeni Water’s statement further alluded that the situation is dire because supply infrastructure can take longer to recover from the effects of power outages, which translate into intermittent or no water supply to consumers. As a result of this, the Umgeni and Msunduzi districts municipalities’ reservoirs serving the vast Vulindlela area are unable to supply water to customers.
Other areas that rely on Umgeni’s water supply like Mpofana, Bruntville, Ukhalo, Ndaleni, Nhlazuka, Mbutshisweni, and Mkhambathini are now also affected whenever there is load shedding.
Umgeni Water said the Midmar Pump Station and the Midmar Water Treatment Works are excluded from load shedding; hence, the conveyance of raw water and its treatment is not affected. But Millfalls Reservoir, which is downstream from the Midmar Water Treatment Works, receives water from the plant when there is an outage, and then transfers it to the Howick West Reservoir.
However, the reservoirs of the uMgungundlovu and Msunduzi municipalities in Vulindlela cannot supply water to customers in the region until electricity is safely restored. This leads to water intermittently or not being supplied to the thirsty consumers in the region.
Umgeni Water concluded the statement by expressing concern over the increased load shedding’s impact on its ability to fulfill its mandate of providing an uninterrupted supply of drinking water. The water corporation is seeking dialogue with Eskom and municipalities to consider providing dedicated power lines to each pump station. Providing such backup energy infrastructure would ensure that the pump stations are not affected whenever there’s a power loss.
In South Africa, water and sanitation are constitutionally protected as basic human rights, and thus the government must ensure that the citizens have continuous access to safe potable water at all times. The load shedding issue is not something new to South Africans, and it’s a situation that needs a sustainable solution immediately. Eskom and municipalities must work together to invest in adequate power generation infrastructure that can supply the country’s electricity demand without affecting other crucial basic services like water supply.