Nelson Mandela Tribute

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From the Desk of the Chief Executive – January 2014

Welcome back to my blog. A lot has happened since we last spoke in May, and I want to share some of it with you. Before I get down to the nitty-gritty of these developments, I thought I’d issue a gentle reminder that as you read this column, Umgeni Water will begin rolling out its organisational activity programme and business plan for the new financial year.

The onset of the new financial year means the implementation of a new organisational scorecard, which has already been approved by Exco and the Board. Specific key performance indicators, initiatives and result indicators in the organisational scorecard are allocated to divisions, and they then become the scorecards of divisions. The contract you sign is derived from your division’s scorecard; if it isn’t, then there’s a problem. If a situation of this nature occurs, it means the activities you contract on are not aligned to the strategy and vision of the organisation. It is best to demolish this dilemma by proper re-alignment – or else you will be operating out of kilter and in a vacuum.

It is premature at this stage to share detailed information on overall organisational performance in the financial year 2014 – 2015, save to say that, from a broad perspective, Umgeni Water continues to deliver on its mandate and remains sustainable. When the General Managers and I begin Site Visits on 13th July 2015, some organisational performance results would have been tallied and confirmed, and these will be shared with you. Equally importantly, I want to hear from you at these Site Visits on how your site has performed in key performance areas. I am looking forward to these visits.

In the period of my last column to now, the General Managers and I have been on our toes, flitting from one engagement to another as the water shortage in the Hazelmere system worsened. A vast area that is supplied by the Hazelmere Waterworks is in the firm grip of a drought that the experts have described as the worst in 30 years. The areas, all within the jurisdictions of eThekwini Metro and iLembe District Municipality, are: Verulam, Waterloo, Sea Tides, Westbrook, Ballito, Umhlali, Ndwedwe and Groutville.

The level of Hazelmere Dam has been falling consistently over the past three months, reaching 30% in June. We have sounded the alarm bells and, in line with our commitment to keep stakeholders abreast of  potentially a crisis situation, presentations were done for the Mayor of iLembe, the Mayor of eThekwini, the MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the media and other Civil Society representatives.

The presentations spelled out clearly the seriousness of the situation and the fact that the affected Water Services Authorities (WSAs) and consumers have a collective responsibility to ensure that drastic water-use cuts are applied so that the little water that is presently available in Hazelmere Dam will last until the next rains.

For Umgeni Water’s part, everything possible had been done to avert future water shortages but, barring Sembcorp Siza Water, the targets that were recommended were not achieved by the others.  These targets were recommended by Umgeni Water in September 2014, and 10 months later Hazelmere Dam remains at the lowest level it has been in 30 years. In an endeavour to augment supply, an emergency scheme was constructed to pump and transfer water from the uTongathi River to Hazelmere Dam. It was initially projected that potentially between 8Ml/d and 10Ml/d of water could be abstracted from the uTongathi River and piped to Hazelmere Dam; however, due to abstraction taking place in winter, when river flows are generally low, between 3Ml/d and 5Ml/d is being transferred. The truth is that in difficult times like the present, every megalitre matters. This emergency scheme has been able to slow down the drop in dam level, moving it from 1% every four days to 1% every five days, thereby making the water available there last a month or two longer.

Experts in climate change are convinced that the below-average rainfall pattern that is being experienced in parts of KwaZulu-Natal is a consequence of the El Nino effect which can produce extremes: droughts in some parts of the world and floods in many others. It is difficult to challenge this hypothesis, especially when parts of South Africa and Southern Africa are being ravaged by either higher-than-average rainfall or no rainfall.

Weather patterns have certainly changed and these changes are having a direct impact on the economies of countries, future expansion and growth of businesses and on our lives. Ultimately water shortages will affect production, thereby jeopardising jobs and livelihoods. As difficult as it may seem, mitigation for the effects of drought, floods and other natural disasters will have to be factored into the planning of major infrastructure. During our interactions with major stakeholders on the prevailing drought this suggestion was made repeatedly, along with some unwarranted finger pointing on who is blame for the delay in raising the wall of Hazelmere Dam as a means to increase the dam’s storage capacity.

Apportioning blame will serve no useful purpose; what is required are concrete and implementable proposals that provide water at an affordable cost when it is needed most, such as times of droughts. We have reached a stage where the available water resources are under stress due to increasing demand, and the possibility of not being able to meet this demand in the next 10 – 15 years has become a reality. The need for major new projects that will supply new water, such as the uMkhomazi Water Project, has become imperative. The need for augmentation through recycled or reclaimed wastewater has similarly become crucial. In the case of the latter, a great deal of community outreach has to be undertaken in order to build a palatable and convincing case for wastewater-to-potable water to become acceptable as an important source of drinking water at times of need.

In the engagements that have been undertaken by my Executive and I on the question of water shortages, many and a variety of quick-fix solutions were bandied as a means to lift consumers out of restrictions.

These supposed solutions included a 3Ml/d desalination plant for consumers of Ballito (no mention was made about alleviating hardship that is also being experienced by consumers from neighbouring Ndwedwe, Groutville, Waterloo and Verulam); the deployment of water tankers and the installation of water tanks at strategic points.

In the present situation and in areas where there is an acute shortage of water, a good case can be made for the temporary use of water tankers and easily accessible water tanks.  The problem requires a calm and rational approach that will halt devastation that has already cut a swathe across many parts of KwaZulu-Natal.

Divine Intervention

The chances of rain to ease the plight many parts of the Province of KwaZulu-Natal faces are very slim, if the gurus of weather prediction have it correct. According to the South African Weather Services, good rains are only expected towards the end of 2015. And that comes with no guarantees. In difficult times it is always worth seeking solace and hope in prayer. We are now in that time. I urge staff and their families to devote some time during worship to pray for rain and also for respite from hardship many thousands of people are experiencing as a result of insufficient water. You may want to do this while you worship at mosques, temples, churches or synagogues or, if you wish, team up with colleagues at the workplace and offer this prayer as an inter-faith, inter-denominational and inter-religious act. The power of prayer is unquestionable.

Expansion and Growth

Good progress is being made with the formal establishment of Regional Water Utilities (RWUs), following a series of meetings that have been held, initially between Chief Executives of Water Boards and the leadership of the Ministry of Water and Sanitation, and later Managers of Umgeni Water and Senior Officials of the Department of Water and Sanitation. Umgeni Water has completed a due diligence in respect of the North West Region comprising uThukela District Municipality, Amajuba District Municipality, Newcastle Local Municipality and Umzinyathi District Municipality, and this appraisal has since been revised at the request of the Department of Water and Sanitation. As a value-add, Umgeni Water staff have done an assessment of water and wastewater infrastructure requirements within the uThukela District as a means to enhance and extend water services. We will certainly not be disappointed  if, for any reason, responsibility for implementation is given to another entity. Our involvement in uThukela District would undoubtedly create a road map for the future and illustrate the organisation’s  benevolent intent.

There are three processes occurring virtually simultaneously: the proposed combination of the National Water Act and Water Services Act; the proposed issuing of a Ministerial directive that would extend the service area of Umgeni Water, and proposed formal establishment of Regional Water Utilities. These processes are at an advanced stage and it is anticipated that the Cabinet will approve the establishment of RWUs in early 2016. In the meantime, all the spade work that is necessary before Umgeni Water North West Region is formally established is underway. In terms of the mandate of RWUs, these entities will be responsible for the implementation, operation and management of all bulk water and wastewater infrastructure. In this situation, therefore, Water Services Authorities will have no choice but to accept the mandate of RWUs.

We want to get to a stage where working in the North West Region will be without resistance or unnecessary hindrance. Our objectives are to ensure that the people of this region are able to receive a reliable and sustainable supply of potable water that is affordable and of the highest standard.

Commissioning of Richmond Bulk Water Supply

Tuesday, 23 June 2015, marked a happy occasion for the people of Richmond. On this day and in the presence of about 400 invited guests the Richmond Bulk Water Supply project was commissioned. Construction of this project began in April 2012 and was completed in May 2015. The beneficiaries of the Richmond Bulk Water Supply are households and businesses in the greater Richmond area, along with consumers in parts of Msunduzi. The commissioning function took place at the Lilliefontein Reservoir in Thornville and due to its significance, was attended by the Mayors of uMgungundlovu, Msunduzi and Richmond, together with members of the Board of Umgeni Water.

The Mayor of uMgungundlovu, Yusuf Bhamjee; the Mayor of Msunduzi Chris Ndelela, and the Mayor of Richmond Andrew Ragavaloo were all emphatic in the crucial role Umgeni Water was playing in making access to drinking water both reliable and easier. They juxtaposed this against the previous situation in Richmond when many challenges were faced with the quality and quantity of water. They also had a strong message for attendees: take care of this new infrastructure so that you and generations after you will be able to enjoy its benefits.

Umgeni Water is proud to be associated with the uMgungundlovu District Municipality and the Msunduzi Local Municipality and will continue to work closely with them so that they will be able to deliver on their water services provision mandates without the hiccups that come with supply interruptions.

At R224 million, Richmond Bulk Water Supply is one of most significant bulk water supply infrastructure investments Umgeni Water has made in the uMgungundlovu District. It will ultimately serve an estimated 50 000 consumers across the vast area of Richmond, Thornville, Baynesfield and some parts of Msunduzi. During construction Umgeni Water made a meaningful contribution to socio-economic uplift through Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment and the creation of 278 jobs.

An out-of-this world experience

Our planet has many challenges, and leaving it behind is certainly not a solution. This had been my view until I came across this news snippet: an academic from Durban, Adriana Marais, has volunteered to join a group of 24 others on a one- way trip to the planet Mars. Yes, she does not want to return to Earth.

It seems that a Dutch-based company has ambitious plans to colonise the Red Planet by setting up a human settlement there, initially for 24 people and later for a larger number as interest grows. Adriana has been short-listed for this all-expenses-paid trip, and is looking forward to it. Her only concern is that her parents will never see her again.

Indeed, we live in a strange world and in almost-impossible-to-understand times. I wonder whether American author and relationship counsellor John Gray got it wrong when he titled his best-selling book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.

Cheerio until we speak again.

Read More

Stakeholders get a Glimpse into Umgeni Water’s Annual Performance for FY 2012-2013

Media, Civil Society, Politicians, Bankers and Investment decision makers received first-hand exposure to Umgeni Water’s performance in the Financial Year 2012 – 2013 in two separate briefing sessions that were held on Thursday, 24th October 2013, at the Hilton Hotel, Durban. The first of the briefing sessions, for the media, comprised an address by Board member Thabani Zulu, representing the Board; a presentation on organisational performance by the Chief Executive Cyril Gamede and a presentation by the General Manager of Finance, Thami Hlongwa. Media present included mainstream daily newspapers, community newspapers, SABC radio and SABC television.

Questions that were raised by the media included:

  • The new and expanded service area of Umgeni Water, as communicated by the Ministry of Water Affairs;
  • The impact of municipal water losses on the bulk tariff;
  • Two sea water desalination feasibility studies that are being conducted for Umgeni Water on the north and south borders of eThekwini; and
  • A wastewater reclamation feasibility study that is being conducted at Darvill Wastewater Works.

The questions raised were responded to adequately by the Chief Executive.

The second session, held in the afternoon, also comprised a message from Mr Zulu on behalf of the Board; organisational performance presentation by Mr Gamede and financial performance presentation by Mr Hlongwa. This session was attended by representatives of the Provincial Government of KwaZulu-Natal, the six municipal customers of Umgeni Water, financial institutions, the Board and Executive and Senior Managements of Umgeni Water. There was an enthusiastic response to the presentations, which illustrated the strong financial position of Umgeni Water and the organisation’s high-level of achievements against the Shareholder Compact, organisational Score Card and Service Level Agreements with customers.

The message from the Board, the organisational performance and finance performance are available under this link.

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Annual Report Briefing Session 24 October 2013


Umgeni National Water Week Programme 2013

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Launch of Construction of the Greater Eston Bulk Water Supply Scheme and Richmond Pipeline Scheme

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