KZN flooding a wake-up call for resilient infrastructure

The catastrophic flooding in KwaZulu-Natal is a wake-up call for local and national government to ensure that future urban development is integrated and resilient to extreme weather events. “The effects are widespread, and I do not think anyone has a proper handle yet on the extent of the infrastructure damage. There is a long road ahead to fix this,” says Darrin Green, MD Africa at global trusted infrastructure consulting firm AECOM.

Parts of KwaZulu-Natal received over 300mm of rainfall in a 24-hour period from 11 to 12 April, and close to 400mm, including the preceding rain in the days leading up to the floods. “It was a 100-year rainfall event for some areas. That is just in terms of the rainfall itself, which cannot be correlated directly with the flooding. Once everything is saturated, the runoff is much higher. Then there is the secondary impact of landslides and erosion that can change the natural runoff characteristics, resulting in unpredictable impacts that can cause further significant damage to infrastructure,” explains Timothy Hotchkiss, an engineer at AECOM’s Durban office specialising in flood management and the design of water-related infrastructure.

While the entire province was impacted, the worse-hit areas were the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality and the districts of iLembe, Ugu, King Cetshwayo, and uMgungundlovu. Informal settlements close to rivers and waterways were severely affected, with numerous dwellings swept away and nearly 450 lives lost to date. The flooding disrupted fuel and food supplies.

The torrential rain caused extensive damage to houses, businesses, roads, bridges and water, electricity, rail, and telecommunications infrastructure. Cabinet declared a national state of disaster on 19 April. KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala estimates it will cost about R5.6 billion to repair the damage to road infrastructure alone. While Durban Port, one of the largest and busiest shipping terminals on the continent, has since reopened, there is a massive backlog of 8 000 to 9 000 containers.

“We will be involved with a lot of the repair and rebuild work, especially in terms of bulk infrastructure such as roads and water networks,” notes Hotchkiss. The company has carried out flood mitigation work for a major automotive manufacturer in the region in conjunction with the metro.

“While eThekwini is proactive from a catchment planning perspective, there are still many challenges, and this event was really way beyond what could have reasonably been planned for,” says Hotchkiss. “For us as AECOM, it is important to take a holistic view of the flooding in terms of its social and environmental impact.”

It is clear from the extent of the damage that properly planned areas, and areas with well-maintained indigenous vegetation, fared much better than areas where there is a lot of uncontrolled development. A lack of integrated planning in terms of electricity, water, transportation networks and stormwater drainage means that the impact of any extreme weather event is likely to be that much greater.

“It is a countrywide issue. There is very little holistic planning around any of these critical factors. Unfortunately, this has contributed significantly to what we have seen happen in KwaZulu-Natal. We are paying the price for years of under-planning and a lack of investment in maintenance and infrastructure,” says Green.

The immediate priority is to ensure that the water supply in eThekwini is fully restored, followed by the electricity and road networks. In some cases, the authorities have consultants and contractors on frameworks and term tenders, and therefore may be able to respond relatively quickly to some of the immediate and less complicated infrastructure repairs. However, on the whole, emergency procurement will need to be put in place. “We have seen before that this does not always have the desired outcomes. We need to mobilise as quickly and as effectively as possible,” says Green. Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) has stated that its members are on standby to provide any assistance required.

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Water and Sanitation on KwaZulu-Natal dam levels

17 Jun 2021

Dam levels in KwaZulu-Natal experience a decline as the winter season sets in

A weekly report on the status of dam levels issued by the Department of Water and Sanitation this week shows a decline in water levels in some of KwaZulu-Natal’s dams. The Department said the provincial storage capacity has decreased from last week’s 73.0% to 72.6% this week.

Midmar Dam is down from 99.2% recorded in the previous week to 98.9%. Also on a downward trend is the Nagle Dam at 88.6% from last week’s 88.7%. Albert-Falls Dam is this week at 54.8% down from 55.1%. Meanwhile, Inanda Dam is at 97.4% from 97.9%. 

Similarly experiencing a decline this week is the Hazelmere Dam at 50.3% from 51.2%, Driel Barrage Dam at a steep decline to 88.4% from 99.7%, Woodstock Dam at 95.7% from 97.0% and Spring Grove Dam at 98.2% from 99.6%.

Bivane Dam has declined from 97.9% to 94.1%. Hluhluwe Dam is at 95.8% this week from 95.3% last week. Ntshingwayo (78.5%) and Zaaihoek (78.4%) and Wagendrift (100.3%) Dams have recorded declines as well. Last week the dams stood at 79.1%, 78.6% and 100.6% respectively.

The Department indicated that there were some dams that remain above average amid the decline in others. Such dam includes the Spioenkop and Craigie Burn Dams which are unchanged at last week’s 100.1% and 100.6% respectively.

Mearns Dam has slightly increased from 67.5% recorded in the previous week to 80.7%. Also up and although minimally is the Goedertrouw Dam at 74.5% from 74.4%

Speaking on behalf of the Department, spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said the minimal declines in dam levels should not alarm residents. He however called for prudent water use.

“You will note that our data shows a minimal decline in some dam levels, with most recording above-average percentages. However, this does not mean we should be reckless with how we use water,” Ratau said.

He added that the province’s largest water supply system, the Umgeni System, has also taken a dip from 84.9% to 84.4%.

“Using water with the utmost care should be part of everyone’s lifestyle. We should really do our best to change our relationship with this precious resource. Report water leaks and infrastructure vandalism, this we cannot overemphasize,” he concluded.


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Wheels in motion to implement bulk water projects in KZN

27 May 2021

The Department of Water and Sanitation in KwaZulu-Natal has set wheels in motion to implement bulk water projects in different parts of the province. This comes after Minister Lindiwe Sisulu tabled a budget of R16.9 billion for the 2021/22 financial year on Tuesday, 25 May 2021.

She also announced that the Department has prioritised a number of unfinished projects across the country and aimed at utilising the bulk amount of the budget to push for their completion. “Chairperson, I need to indicate that for the coming financial year, we have prioritised the following water infrastructure projects, including the Raising of Hazelmere Dam wall in KwaZulu-Natal,” said Minister Sisulu.

The implementation of such projects come amid the minimal decline of dam levels in KZN from last week’s 73.8% to 73.6%. During a similar period in 2020, the provincial storage capacity stood at 63.4%.

“The plan is to speedily and effectively implement bulk water projects so as to ensure water security to affected communities,” said the Department’s spokesperson Sputnik Ratau.

He also maintained that the Department has identified severely affected districts such as the Ugu District which continues to experience inconsistent water challenges.

“You would have heard Minister Sisulu during the tabling of the Budget Vote earlier this week, she did acknowledge that water challenges in Ugu are uncalled for and should be resolved. It is for this reason that we are working around the clock to speedily implement water projects as dam levels are expected to decline in the coming weeks,” Ratau said.

Meanwhile, the Umgeni Water Supply System this week stands at 85.5% from 85.9% last week.

Midmar Dam is at 99.0% from 100.1%. Nagle Dam is down from 90.4% to 89.3%. Albert-Falls Dam is at 56.0 from 55.5%. Inanda Dam is at 98.7% from 99.3%.

Here’s a look at this week’s dam level status in some KwaZulu-Natal dams:

DamStatus last week              Status this week
Klipfontein99.3 %99.0 %
Woodstock100.0%98.9 %
Spioenkop100.1%100.0 %
Hluhluwe98.2 %97.3 %
Wagendrift100.4 %100.0 %
Bivane100.0 %99.2 %
Ntshingwayo80.6 %80.2 %
Pongolapoort58.7 %58.7%
Driel Barrage100.7 %89.3 %
Mearns90.7 %72.6 %
Goedertrouw75.0 %74.7 %


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Water and Sanitation calls for wise water use

20 May 2021

KwaZulu-Natal dams takes a dip, DWS reiterates call for prudent water use

The Department of Water and Sanitation in KwaZulu-Natal has reiterated its plea to consumers to use water sparingly as dam levels in the province experienced a minimal decline this week. The provincial storage capacity has declined from 74.0% to 73.8%. Comparative to a similar period last year, dam levels stood at 63.6%.

However, the Department said the decline was not a cause for concern as the province’s main water supply system, the Umgeni Water Supply System was considerably steady at 85.9% from last week’s 86.1%.

Meanwhile, some dams within the System have similarly remained above average this week as compared to the previous week and last year. Midmar Dam is at 100.1% from 100.4%. Nagle Dam is slightly down from 90.7% to 90.4%. Albert-Falls has remained unchanged at last week’s 56.0%. Inanda and Spring Grove Dams have recorded 99.3% and 100.5% respectively.

The Department said it continues to work around the clock to implement long-term measures to ensure water security for all.

“We are committed to carry out our mandate of ensuring water provision for all households in the country. This is as we prepare to hear priority areas which will be tabled by Minister Lindiwe Sisulu next week Tuesday, 25 May 2021, as she will deliver the 2021/22 Budget Vote for the Department in Parliament,” said Spokesperson Sputnik Ratau. 

“We can confirm that the Budget will consist of long-term projects which will need to be implemented in the province and some which will bring immediate relief to communities, especially those experiencing the dire effects of drought” he said.

Ratau said while the Department was geared up to continue with implementation of projects in different parts of the province, it called on water users to play an active role by using water sparingly and reporting water leaks and infrastructure vandalism to their local authorities.

Here’s a look at this week’s dam level status in some KwaZulu-Natal dams:

DamStatus last weekStatus this week
Driel Barrage100.7%100.7%


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Tiffany’s Shopping Centre and Spar rent the sun

The installation of a rooftop solar photo-voltaic system at Tiffany’s Shopping Centre and Spar in Salt Rock on Kwa-Zulu Natal’s Dolphin Coast has been completed, enabling the retail centre tenants to harness the abundant coastal sunshine, go green and save costs.

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