R2bil pumped into KZN water

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Johannesburg - The Department of Water Affairs is to spend more than R2 billion on the construction of a massive dam that is expected to provide water to more than two million people in KwaZulu-Natal.

Most of the funds will come in the form of long term loans sourced from the European Investment Bank and the Development Bank of South Africa which will provide about 195 million Euros and R250 million respectively.

Unveiling the initiative on Saturday, Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said construction work on the Spring Grove Dam and its water transfer system was expected to begin next year with the completion date set for 2014. 

The announcement comes as the department marks the beginning of the National Water Week campaign on Monday.

"This is a multi-year project which will have a long term impact on South Africa's economic development and it will contribute a great deal to our new economic growth path imperatives," Molewa said.

KwaZulu-Natal is among the provinces that have been affected by a shortage of water with officials saying the situation was likely to deteriorate in years to come. 

The construction of the dam will lead to the delivery of bulk raw water to the Mgeni System through to the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality where millions of people are expected to benefit. The project includes the construction of a conveyance system to transfer water to the Mgeni River catchment and will deliver additional 60 million cubic meters of water a year.

Umgeni Water CEO Mzimkhulu Msiwa said water supply in the KwaZulu-Natal area had been declining over the years and described the construction of the dam as a much needed boost. 

"Considering the challenges we were foreseeing, we are very glad to see this investment because it will give us an assurance that we can be in a position to deliver the water needs of the people," he said. 

Recently, experts told delegates at the inaugural South African Water and Energy forum conference in Johannesburg that South Africa faced a water crisis and could start having critical shortages as early as 2020.

Molewa also said the department will be using events such as the National Water Week to remind South Africans of the importance of saving water. "South Africa remains a water scarce country therefore all water sources need to be protected". 

The country needed to be conscious of the need to preserve water and ensure reduction of wastage, she added.