Official Opening of the Mhlabatshane Dam
17th March 2012, Phungashe, Umzumbe

Even the weather was unable to put a damper on celebrations to mark the official opening of the Mhlabatshane Dam in Phungashe, Umzumbe, on Saturday, 17th March 21012. As rain poured in Phungashe, about 3 000 enthusiastic local residents gathered under a massive marquee to share in their joy of having infrastructure that will enable the Ugu District Municipality to provide a sustainable supply of safe drinking water to households.

The function, at the local school in Phungashe, was organised by the Ministry of Water Affairs, with support provided by Umgeni Water, Ugu District Municipality, Umzumbe Local Municipality and Hibiscus Coast Local Municipality. Initially the function was to have been attended by the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, and the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Zweli Mkhize. However, due to last-minute changes, the Minister and Premier were unfortunately unable to attend, but senior officials of the Department of Water Affairs, the Deputy Mayor of Ugu District Municipality, Councillor Chiliza, Mayor of Umzumbe Local Municipality, Councillor Gumede, and the Deputy Mayor of Umzumbe Local Municipality, Councillor Dlamini, were in attendance to ensure the success of the event.

Umgeni Water was represented by the Chairperson of its Board, Andile Mahlalutye, and Board members Imtiaz Vally, Gabsie Mathenjwa and Teboho Nkhahle, Acting Chief Executive Nica Gevers, General Manager of Operations Ednick Msweli, General Manager of Engineering and Scientific Services Steve Gilham, Project Office Manager Suhayl Rawhani, Area Manager South Bruce Boyers and Corporate Stakeholder Manager Shami Harichunder. Umgeni Water was allocated two items on the programme – briefing on the Mhlabatshane Bulk Water Supply Scheme to the dignitaries and Message of Support – which were done by the General Manager of E&SS and the Chairperson of the Board respectively. (The Chairperson’s Message of Support is published alongside this article.)

The briefing session was followed by a ceremonial closing of the dam sluice gates, which begins the impounding of water. This was followed by messages that were delivered to the audience by the Mayor and Deputy Mayor and a representative of the Department of Water Affairs. The formalities of the afternoon programme were interspersed with entertainment which was enjoyed by all the attendees. The function on Saturday was the culmination of several months of planning by the Department of Water Affairs, Umgeni Water, Ugu District Municipality and Umzumbe Local Municipality.

Apart from marking the completion of the Mhlabatshane Dam, the event also celebrated the development of critical infrastructure by Umgeni Water that is required to enable the Ugu District Municipality to reticulate water to households in Hibiscus Coast and Umzumbe. The Mhlabatshane Dam is a component of the Mhlabatshane Regional Water Supply Scheme, which was conceptualised by Ugu District Municipality as the most optimal means to provide an assured supply of potable water to more than 101 000 people who live in the rural areas of portions of the Umzumbe and Hibiscus Coast local municipalities, both of which are located within the Ugu District Municipality. The communities in this area are classified as either having inadequate or low-level water services. A few stand-alone river abstraction schemes exist in the area. These stand-alone schemes have proven to be problematic, providing an unreliable level of service.

The Mhlabatshane Bulk Water Supply Scheme is being implemented by Umgeni Water, who will also operate it. Ugu District Municipality will be responsible for reticulating the water from the bulk scheme to the various communities. The Mhlabatshane Bulk Water Supply Scheme will be developed in two phases. Phase 1 is currently being constructed and Phase 2 will be implemented at a later date when the water demands from the scheme reach the capacity of the initial phase.

Phase 1 of the bulk water supply scheme consists of the following infrastructure:

  • Dam (29.9 m high composite central concrete spillway and earth embankment dam with a storage of 1.5 million m3);
  • Raw water pump station and a rising main pipeline (~1000m length) to an intermediate reservoir;
  • Raw water intermediate/booster pump station and rising main pipeline (~2900m length);
  • Water Treatment Plant (initial capacity 4Ml/day);
  • Potable water pump station and rising main (~700m length) to a command reservoir (2Ml); and
  • Gravity potable water pipeline (~3600m length) to supply the Ndwebu area.

Phase 2 of this project will be to augment the Mhlabatshane BWSS from the Mzimkhulu River. This will double the capacity of the scheme as commissioned in Phase 1. The water treatment plant capacity will also be increased during this phase.

In order to maximise the supply of water from the bulk scheme, Ugu District Municipality is constructing a secondary bulk pipeline which will link the command reservoir in the upper supply area to lower supply areas. In parallel with the implementation of the secondary bulk pipeline, the reticulation network is also being upgraded by Ugu District Municipality.

The total estimated capital cost of Phase 1 of the Mhlabatshane Bulk Water Supply Scheme is R186 million, of which approximately R112 million has been spent so far. The Department of Water Affairs has to date made available an amount of approximately R69 million from the Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant for this project. The Ugu District Municipality is to finance the cost of the reticulation network.