A new potable seawater purification plant has begun processing hundreds of kilolitres of salt water to ease the shortage of drinkable water caused by the current drought in South Africa.
The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) recently launched the critical Richards Bay Desalination Plant* in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). The launch of the plant is meant to assist in enhancing security of supply within the King Cetshwayo District Municipality.
Minister Mokonyane explained in a statement: “We are delighted to announce that the desalination plant is now 100% complete and functional. In fact, the plant started to produce water on the 14 November 2016 and a total of 10ML/day production was commissioned by 25 January 2017”.
The plant was launched in recognition of the centrality of water in all socio-economic development, appreciating that the water sector is critical for government’s transformation and development objectives, while the provision of safe and accessible water supply and sanitation services profoundly affects poor people’s daily lives.
In recognition of the sustained drought conditions experienced in the province, the KZN Provincial Cabinet issued a drought disaster declaration in December 2014.
As a result of the drought, all the natural sources levels ran low and thus not suitable for use, with even the Goedertrouw Dam, the main supply to Richards Day, dropping to a dangerously low level of 16% as at August 2016.
To mitigate against this misfortune, the Emergency Water Transfer Scheme was activated in July 2014 where water was then pumped from the Thukela River into the Goedertrouw Dam to ensure the dam does not fail.
All of this was while the DWS together with the affected municipality focused on changing the water mix with greater emphasis on water harvesting, re-use of return flows, and utilising ground water by drilling of boreholes.
The aforementioned challenges drove the department to seek and provide a short term intervention.
This was done by the introduction of the 10 Megalitre/day desalination plant in order to augment the domestic water supply and avoid further hardship for the communities in and around Richards Bay.
The desalination plant will benefit the whole town of Richards Bay and surrounding communities from the sea water treated. It will directly benefit the communities of Mandlazini, Nseleni, Khoza, Mzingazi and the Mbonambi Rural Water Supply Scheme.
The water reservoirs in the region have greatly improved since the operation of the desalination plant adding water security and reliability. The reservoirs in this respect include Mapolwane, Khoza, Nseleni, Mandlazini, Meerensee and Brackenham. These reservoirs have moved from an average of 55% to 90%.
“Most importantly, there is dire need for coordination of infrastructure investments in targeted spaces across spheres, sectors and with stakeholders; and government across the various spheres should strive to overcome persistent backlogs and inequities in service delivery through improved intergovernmental planning and budgeting processes.”