SA and Cuba extend working relations in water sector

Deputy Minister of Water and Sanitation, David Mahlobo and his Cuban counterpart, Bladimir Matos Moya, First Vice President of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources of Cuba, have signed an agreement between the governments of South Africa and Cuba on cooperation in the fields of water resources management and water supply. The signing happened during the fifth session of the South Africa-Cuba Steering Committee held in Pretoria on 25 November 2021.

Both sides reiterated their commitment to continue strengthening the bilateral cooperation for mutual benefit based on the Agreement between the two countries. The Agreement has ensured the continuity of the cooperation on water and sanitation between both nations that started in 2001.

Both Deputy Minister Mahlobo and First Vice President Matos Moya have welcomed the progress made and the important achievements attained in this bilateral cooperation, including the deployment in South Africa of highly qualified Cuban specialists, who are assisting as advisors at provincial, municipal and local levels with the maintenance and management of water supply and sanitation infrastructure, as well as the strategic planning of those resources, particularly in rural and other disadvantaged communities.

They have agreed to expand and diversify the areas of cooperation. They also emphasised the need to focus on capacity-building, through the development of training courses in Cuba and South Africa that will be tailor-made to support national, provincial and local South African technical and professional staff.

Both parties agreed to continue working together to ensure the success of the next South Africa-Cuba Steering Committee Meeting, scheduled to be held in September 2022, in Havana, Cuba.

Deputy Minister Mahlobo and First Vice President Matos Moya recognised the deep historical relations and the strong spirit of solidarity between South Africa and Cuba, which goes beyond the establishment of formal diplomatic relations 27 years ago.

In this regard, Deputy Minister Mahlobo reiterated that South Africa, as a matter of principle and in solidarity with the government and people of Cuba, will continue to support and vote in favour of the UN annual resolutions on the “necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the USA against Cuba”.

Deputy Minister Mahlobo further said South Africa also notes that the excellent bilateral relations with Cuba, which are being translated into concrete deliverables through the Water and Sanitation Cooperation, serve to create a better life for all South Africans.

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IFAT Africa 2021 cancelled

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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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Water and Sanitation: Integrated Vaal River System dams project

19 May 2021

IVRS dams project a mixed picture as they drop while others are stagnant this week 

A major part of the dams within the Integrated Vaal River System (IVRS) has this week seen a decrease in levels while others have remained unchanged for the second subsequent week, with just one recording an increase.

According to the Department of Water and Sanitation’s weekly reservoir report, nine of the dams within the system dropped and four others remained unchanged from last week.

Inevitably, the mixed picture in the levels of the system spilt over to the overall level of system as shown in its decline this week. Last week, the system, which is still in a top notch position, was at 91.3%. This week the system is hovering at 91.0%. The level of the system this week represents a substantial improvement from 67.4% over the same week in the preceding year.

The system is the backbone of the economy of Gauteng as the economic hub not only of South African but the entire African continent. Leading industries that breathe life to the country’s economy such as Sasol and Eskom are supplied with water from the system.

A significant dam within the system, the Vaal Dam has declined this week. It lowered from 101.4% last week to slightly above the 100% at 100.7% this week. During the same time last year, the dam had slightly passed the 50% to stand at 50.5%.

Another dam to flow at lesser level this week is the Grootdraai Dam. It fell from last week’s 94.9% to 93.5% presently. The dam stood at 89.2% at this time last year. 

The Lesotho’s Katse and Mohale dams have equally dropped this week.

The former dam has seen a decrease to 76.5% from 77.1% last week. The dam bounced back from a dire state of 37.7%, which it recorded twelve months ago during the same week.

Meanwhile, the latter dam continues to lurch from a calamitous situation to an even lower level this week.  It dipped further from 38.7% last week to 38.2% this week. Last year at the same time, it made for a dismal spectacle at 14.5%.

On the contrary, the Bloemhof Dam has surged this week. It went up from 107.6% last week to 108.0% this week. During the preceding year at the same time, the dam was down at 99.2% but in a remarkably strong position. 

The Sterkfontein Dam remains at 98.7% for the second subsequent week. In the previous year during the same week, the dam was lesser but steady at 93.5%. Three other dams that are unchanged from last week’s levels are Woodstock Dam at 100.0%, Zaaihoek Dam 80.0% as well as the Vygeboom 100.3%

The other dams within the system stand as follows:

  • Jericho –  83.5%
  • Morgenstond –  85.7%
  • Westoe – 84.2%
  • Heyshope – 86.8%
  • Nooitgedacht – 96.4%

The Department continues to plead with both businesses and households to use water with care. In this regard, it appeals that toilets should not be flushed unless it is absolutely necessary to do so. This could assist to save many litres of water as toilets do not require flushing after every use of the facility.

In the same vein, the Department wishes to reiterate that when washing cars water users must refrain from using hosepipes but rather use buckets. This is especially the case for businesses such as car washes.


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Water stress can put business models in jeopardy

South Africa’s recent droughts are teaching businesses a life-changing lesson: we can no longer simply assume that clean water will always be available to keep operations running smoothly.

According to Gert Nel, partner and principal hydrogeologist at SRK Consulting, responsible water management is becoming a cornerstone of any sustainable business model – with investors starting to look more critically at how water risks are mitigated. “When putting together a business model for a multi-million rand business development, a key factor will now be the reliability of water supply,” said Nel. “Can you trust the local and regional water services provider to always offer a sustainable water source, and what are the broader environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues you will face with securing your own supply?”

He highlighted that the signing of a contract with a public service provider does not necessarily guarantee water supply if all available the traditional sources simply run out. “Indeed, the experiences of severe drought in cities like Cape Town and Port Elizabeth show that the communities’ basic right to water will take precedence, and businesses will be left to develop their own solutions in a crisis,” he said.

In this context, groundwater remains the most readily accessible resource to businesses – as long as it is used and managed in strict accordance with ESG best practice. This means early-stage scientific investigations into the viability of boreholes, as well as careful adherence to the regulatory framework.

“While desalination has been considered in coastal locations, it is a relatively costly option and takes years to implement,” he said. “Drilling boreholes is generally the only practical option, but businesses might be located on a very poor aquifer which could be low-yielding or have an unacceptable water quality.”

To ensure the integrity of the business model, developers generally require the involvement of a professional groundwater specialist to investigate and highlight the groundwater development potential of the town, city or area in which the operation will be established. These studies will also include a consideration of the number of existing groundwater users in the immediate area, and their respective water uses.

“The question that needs to be answered is whether there is enough groundwater for your business, in addition to the other private and public users in the area.”

Gert Nel, partner and principal hydrogeologist at SRK Consulting

“A hydrogeologist can compile a numerical groundwater model that delivers scientific predictions on the future availability of groundwater in the area you’re investing in – taking into account both existing use and the likely increased demand in the future. This is standard practice in the mining sector, for example, and all sectors can learn from this.”

Legal compliance is of course a key aspect of ESG, and this requires early planning to accommodate the potentially lengthy permitting period. Boreholes require a water use license (WUL), which can take up to two years to approve. Having the necessary license in place gives a business the ability to start drilling and preparing the necessary infrastructure for self-supply of water in case of a drought.

“This creates the vital back-up water supply to mitigate the operation’s risk in situations when the usual water supplier is unable to deliver,” he said. “It does need the investment in studies and permitting well in advance, though, as it will be too late to respond once ‘Day Zero’ is in sight.”

He reiterated the importance of considering ESG impacts related to the drilling of boreholes, and the crucial need to follow due process.

“If you drill boreholes to provide a supplementary or sole supply to your business, and you don’t follow scientific, environmental and social due processes, you could face public resistance,” he warned. “Surrounding borehole users could well accuse you of depleting their groundwater, or even causing the failure of their businesses due to their only water supply source drying up.”

While it might be possible to address these claims through detailed hydrogeological investigations, it cannot always be assumed that the scientific answer will be accepted by all stakeholders. Careful processes of communication and consultation – and perhaps even collaboration over the use of available groundwater – will help to manage the risk of reputational damage or worse.

“Irrespective of the specific environmental and social context of the business, it is wise to engage experienced scientists and engineers in preparing a water solution for a sustainable business plan,” he said. “The regulatory, social and physical landscape is complex, and there are a number of pitfalls that a responsible business would do well to avoid.”

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