Environment

Environment

Conserving our Natural Resources

Environmental Sustainability, including Water Resources Adequacy


Management Approach

Adequate supplies of raw water resources are paramount to Umgeni Water, which together with reliable sources of energy, water treatment chemicals and other resources are crucial for sustainability of the water business. The entity therefore is steadfast in protecting, conserving and efficiently using and sustaining these resources.

Environmental management programmes and plans are embedded in all components of the water business life-cycle, namely, during planning, construction, operation and decommissioning. Umgeni Water has classified its environmental management programmes as Corporate, Operational or Integrated Environmental Management:

  • Corporate Environmental Management focuses on aligning the business activities to environmental sustainability and promoting a shift towards the state of a green economy,
  • Operational Environmental Management focuses on ensuring compliance with applicable environmental legislation and regulations and ensuring the entity avoids and or minimises environmental impacts from business activities.
  • Integrated Environmental Management focuses on identification, mitigation and implementation of management plans for potential environmental impacts associated with infrastructure developments.

Umgeni Water, as public water services entity in South Africa, complies with all mandatory environmental disclosure requirements. Notwithstanding this, the entity continues to improve alignment of environmental indicators with other national and internationally accepted indicator disclosure requirements, including the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and King IV Report on Corporate Governance, in terms of materiality and relevance.  Relevant aspects include: materials, including chemicals and water resources, energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions, carbon footprint mapping, biodiversity and waste management, amongst others.

Water Resources Adequacy

Umgeni Waters’ core business function is to treat and supply bulk potable water – a business highly dependent on the availability of sustainable water resources. The reconciliation between water resource availability and water demand is therefore of primary importance to the entity and forms an integral part of the infrastructure planning process. Understanding what water resources are available to the entity, both current and future resources and what factors affect the assurance level of these resources, is crucial to balancing supply with customer demand and maintaining supply sustainability into the future.

The primary water sources used by the entity, include fourteen (14) impoundments  on three (3) major water resource systems, namely, the Mgeni System (Mooi and Mgeni rivers), the North Coast System (uMdloti, iMvutshane, uThukela and uMvoti rivers) and the South Coast System (Nungwane, Mzimayi, uMuziwezinto and Mhlabatshane rivers).  Total water withdrawal by source is shown in Figure 1.

Umgeni Water is now oprating some of the sub-systems in the Upper uThukela Region. These sub-systems include eZakheni and Tugela Estates which form part of the Spioenkop System and Olifantskop, which is part of the Sundays River System. The metered water sales records on these areas are insufficient to undertake water-use trend analyses. Meters have been installed at these plants to measure supply to demand areas and additional meters are being installed for balancing purposes. The report on water withdrawals for the North-West System will be covered in the 2020 annual report.

In the reporting period, progress was made with the following water resource dam developments:

  • Smithfield Dam (DWS) as part of the uMkhomazi Water Project for which the feasibility study was completed and construction anticipated to be completed by 2030;
  • Hazelmere Dam raising (DWS) for which construction is in progress and expected to be completed in 2020; and
  • Ngwadini Dam (UW), as part of the Lower uMkhomazi Scheme, for which the detailed design commenced in 2017/2018, is planned for completion in 2019/2020 and construction to start thereafter.

Climate Change and Water Resources

The natural climate is the prime determinant of water availability whether surface or groundwater. Water availability is key to the business of Umgeni Water and therefore it is crucial for Umgeni Water to incorporate climatic impacts when planning and designing water infrastructure, particularly given the significant costs and long planning period required for major infrastructure investments such as dams, pipelines, buildings and transport infrastructure.

The Department of Environmental Affairs, under the Long Term Adaptation Scenarios identified the main response to climate change for water boards as coherent planning of water resources as well as developing water resilience. In this regard, Umgeni Water has largely been proactive in incorporating climate change impacts into its planning processes. The climate change initiatives undertaken by Umgeni Water in 2018/2019 are:

Umgeni Water is developing a flood forecasting and early warning system for uMgungundlovu District Municipality. This system will improve the state of preparedness and adaptive capacity of vulnerable local communities. The duration of this project is three years and the deliverable is to provide a real-time flood forecasting and early warning system to alert Umgeni Water dam operators and downstream communities of impending flood events. The design of this system commenced in May 2017 and the project is anticipated to be completed in April 2020.

  • A Climate Change Research Study through the University of KwaZulu-Natal, was initiated in May 2018 to update, and expand on previous work covering Umgeni Water’s area of operation, The study was based on outputs from selected Global Climate Models (GCMs) from the most recent IPCC accredited GCMs from the World Climate Research sponsored Coordinated Regional Climate Downscaling Experiments (CORDEX). The focus of the study was to investigate the potential impacts of climate change on potential evaporation, rainfall, accumulated streamflow, dry spells and wet spells. Hydrological simulations were undertaken using the ACRU Model and the results of the study indicated that:

Evaporation:

  • Annual increases between 60 and 100 mm (2 – 3%) along the coast to ~ 10 % in the higher lying west, may be expected.
  • Projected changes in seasonal reference evaporation ranges from 200 mm in winter up to 600 mm in summer.

Rainfall:

  • Annual rainfalls are projected to be the highest along the coast and in the far inland areas at high altitudes.
  • Some areas within Umgeni Water’s area of operation are projected ted to receive above average rainfall and other areas below average rainfall.
  • In dry years’ projections are for a slight drying by 10 – 20 mm, equivalent to < 2% along the southwest and northwest boundary areas and in patches along the coast. The northern portion of the operational area is expected to receive an increased rainfall of approximately 2%. The median annual rainfall is expected to decrease by > 50 mm in the West. An increase of approximately 50 mm, however, is expected in wet years over large portions of the inland system.

Accumulated Streamflow:

  • Confidence in the projected changes in streamflows into the future is not as high as the confidence in rainfall.
  • However, water resource planners may have to consider that projected changes in streamflows for three of the four seasons of the year are negative.
  • For annual streamflows, years with median flows are projected to have lower flows into the immediate future, while for both dry and wet years a mix of reductions and enhancements in streamflows is projected, but with these occurring in different parts of the study area.
  • It is suggested that any water resource related developments into the future take cognisance of the above findings. They also have implications, e.g. for irrigators who depend on run-of-river as a source of water

Dry Spells

Dry spells of short and medium duration are a concern to water resource managers as they imply increases in irrigation water requirements and reductions in runoff. The projections of more dry spells per annum of 2 and 3 consecutive months’ duration over the next 30 years would constitute a further concern to Umgeni Water as according to the GCMs used, they are projected to occur in the higher lying western source areas of major rivers in the study area.   The implications: increase in irrigation demand, reduction in runoff.

Wet Spells

The results indicated a projected decline in wet spells, especially those of 2 and 3 months’ duration, in the west. This implies a high likelihood of fewer runoff producing events per year in the Upper Mkomazi critical source area of runoff as well as a high likelihood of increases in irrigation water requirements there. According to the study, these findings might be offset by projected increases in wet spells in the eastern two-thirds of the study area.

Arguably the biggest concern to Umgeni Water is in the west of the Study Area, where both increases in dry spells and simultaneously decreases in wet spells per annum are projected by the CORDEX GCMs utilised in the Study, especially since the west is a critical source area of runoff within the region.

Water Reuse

Umgeni Water is piloting a reuse plant at its Darvill Wastewater Treatment Works. The 2 Ml/d direct reuse demonstration plant comprises a conventional water treatment works to provide high pressure wash water followed by an advanced treatment process plant. The plant is to be used for evaluating the effectiveness of reuse processes and will also be used as a demonstration plant where outside organisations and learning institutions (universities and schools) can visit, learn and understand the benefits of wastewater reuse and the processes involved in treating wastewater to potable standards. Implementation is delayed and is expected to be completed in 2020 together with the Darvill WWTW upgrade project.

Raw Water Quality

The status of raw water quality per resource is shown in Table 1. Water quality risks associated with Umgeni Water’s raw water supplies can arise from various catchment and impoundment aspects including: eutrophication (nutrient enrichment and its associated threats including algal blooms, taste and odours and aquatic weed infestations), faecal contamination and associated pathogen risks, suspended solids and chemical constituents (including iron and manganese). The effects of these aspects in turn relate to raw water treatability, chemical usage and other cost implications, and may contribute to final water non-compliance with SANS 241 Drinking Water specification.

Umgeni Water has set resource quality objectives for water resources used for abstraction and use these alert levels to assess and mitigate treatability risks, optimise raw water quality and provide early warnings of adverse raw water quality.

Table 1: Resource Water Quality

Catchment water quality management plans include:

  • Monitoring of water resource quality to assess raw water treatability,
  • Assessing risks associated with deteriorating trends in eutrophication, chemical contamination, pathogens and turbidity,
  • Engaging in catchment management activities to influence resource quality and quantity objectives that will balance environmental objectives and safeguarding consumer health, and
  • Monitoring and improving the quality of waste discharges from operational sites.

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), as the custodian of South Africa’s water resources, is kept informed of the quality, trends and potential risks associated with raw water resources.

Water Loss Management

Umgeni Water strives to use the water abstracted from resources assiduously. Water balancing and water loss management measures are in place per treatment system. Overall water loss levels have been maintained below the entity’s target level of 5% over the years. Water loss trends are shown in Figure 2 below.

The systems with losses above 5% are as follows:

  • Lower Thukela at 8.4%. The works is new and is currently operating at 30% capacity. The water loss per cent will progressively reduce, as uptake from this works increases.
  • The infrastructure for Rosetta, Appelsbosch, Lidgetton and Mpofana small schemes are in need of refurbishment. Small schemes are to be replaced by more efficient and effective regional schemes in the short to medium term.

Materials Usage and Efficiency

Water is the most significant input material for Umgeni Water, as described in the previous section, followed by energy which is discussed below.  In addition, Umgeni Water has a high reliance on water treatment chemical resources and is therefore committed to improving the usage efficiency thereof.

Chemicals Usage and Efficiency

The chemical usage trend for the last 5 years is presented in Figure 3 During the current assessment period, Umgeni Water utilised a total of 9.1 million kg of water treatment chemicals. This is a slight increase in usage over the prior year. The reason for this increase is due to the treatment of high volumes of raw water with unsatisfactory quality associated with drought, catchment activities and the operation of additional plants. Water treatment chemicals are used to ensure that the quality of the potable water was of acceptable standard and that the quality was maintained to the point of use.

Umgeni Water has implemented various initiatives to optimise the use of water treatment chemicals. These include:

  • Testing the effectiveness of water treatment chemicals for each raw water system / plant. This informs the selection of the optimal treatment chemical and therefore prevents inefficiency / unnecessary usage;
  • Monthly chemical optimisation audits to ensure that optimal use of treatment chemicals is maintained and to facilitate a prompt response should a problem be identified through the monthly sampling;
  • Monitoring and evaluation of the water treatments process per plant, which identifies areas of process improvement and operational efficiency;
  • Monitoring and assessing seasonal variation of the water column / dam levels, to assess levels with optimal raw water quality; and
  • Participating in catchment management activities and forums and contributing to the information base, including provision of water quality data. This influences decisions on catchment land use activities and more sustainable development.

Energy Usage, Carbon Footprint and Emissions Reduction Initiatives

Carbon footprint can be described as the total amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (expressed as carbon dioxide equivalents  or CO2e) for which an organisation or site is responsible for  or over which it has control over resulting from business activities.

Umgeni Water wants to take full ownership of all emissions that it can control, influence and reduce. Scope 1 emissions refer to direct emissions that Umgeni Water can control whereas scope 2 and 3 emissions are indirect emissions controlled by third party organisations. Table 2 shows the GHG Emissions for scopes 1,2 and 3.

Umgeni Water commenced measuring carbon footprint associated with its business activities in the 2006/7 financial year. In 2018, Umgeni Water reviewed and improved its method for calculating carbon emissions to meet international standards. This led to a change in the base year for reporting the organisation’s carbon emissions to 2018. (Figure 5)

Umgeni Water’s direct CO2 emission (Scope 1) contributions emanate mainly from vehicles, boats, generators and methane production from anaerobic wastewater treatment process (Figure 5). Indirect CO2 emissions are largely due to purchased electricity usage (Scope 2) and to a lesser extent flights and the use of hired vehicles. (Table 2)

The entity’s carbon footprint is predominantly due to electricity consumption (approximately 97%) which is one of the main inputs to water and wastewater treatment processes. The total electricity usage for the reporting period was 145 million KWh as depicted in the Electricity usage and efficiency trends in Figure 4.

Table 2: CO2 Equivalents (tonnes)

 

Umgeni Water is currently in the process of investigating and implementing initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint. The main initiative that is proposed for implementation is the development of an electricity cogeneration plant at Darvill WWTW that will utilise the methane produced at this plant to produce electricity. Preliminary studies indicate that energy produced from this system can reduce the Darvill WWTW’s energy demand by approximately 40%. Other initiatives to reduce and offset the organisation’s emissions are being investigated.

Green Building

Umgeni Water’s objective of greening its operational and future infrastructure is driven and supported by its desire to move its business activities towards sustainable development. Green buildings not only reduce or eliminate negative impacts on the environment, by using less water, energy or natural resources, but may also have a positive impact on the environment by generating their own energy or by increasing biodiversity. Key drivers of the need for green building include climate change, energy, water security, waste reduction, healthy working environments and biodiversity, amongst others.

Umgeni Water’s journey began with a Feasibility Study that focussed on assessing operational sites in line with the Green Building Council of South Africa Existing Building Performance Tool. The assessments presented green building strategies/recommendations, organized into the Water, Energy and Waste categories that Umgeni Water can take forward to expand green building practices. As a water utility, Umgeni Water can play a significant role in the green building sector through its comprehensive Capital Expenditure Programme which involves the provision of vital infrastructure required to enhance assurance of water supply. Umgeni Water is currently developing policies and plans that will facilitate the adoption of green building principles and construction techniques into all types of future eligible developments.

Biodiversity Management
uMngeni Ecological Infrastructure Partnership (UEIP)

The UEIP is a joint partnership comprising government, business, academia and civil society committed to finding better ways to integrating Ecological Infrastructure solutions into water resource management in the greater  Mngeni River catchment. The primary focus of the UEIP is on the role ecological infrastructure can play in improving water security in the catchment. Umgeni Water as a signatory of this partnership has contributed to the UEIP by supplying valuable water quality data information and experience to a number of projects. This information has increased awareness of the challenges associated with land use-related water quality impacts.

Progress with these initiatives in the 2018/2019 reporting year included the provision of technical and/or financial support to:

  • ‘Save Midmar Dam’ project – The project focuses on the Mthinzima stream in Mpophomeni. The priorities of the project include wetland rehabilitation, improving built and green infrastructure, environmental awareness and solid waste management. Umgeni Water is one of the key stakeholders in the projects and is working closely with uMgungundlovu District Municipality, Department of Environmental Affair- Natural resource Management and local communities in supporting the objectives of the project.  The Mpopomeni sanitation remain a major problem contributing to water quality issues in the Midmar catchment and the proposed upgrade of the Mpopomeni Waterwater Treatment Works will improve the situation. At its current state, the Mthinzima Wetland is playing a major role in trapping the effluent from the Mpopomeni WWW from going into Midmar Dam.
  • The ongoing ‘Enviro-champs’ project – this is a community based environmental monitoring programme that focusses on environmental education and awareness and assists with the implementation of water conservation measures and sewer reticulation monitoring.

Research Project: Floating Wetlands

Constructed floating wetlands have been successfully used for water quality enhancement and wetland habitat creation in many parts of the world.  An Umgeni Water funded research project has commenced with the appointment of students from Durban University Technology (Civil Engineering Faculty) to pilot floating wetlands using a variety of plant species in several aquatic environments. It is anticipated that this research project using modest technology will identify the most appropriate non-invasive plant species to improve water quality in nutrient enriched aquatic environments. If successful, the goal would be to implement floating wetlands at strategic wastewater treatment works and water resources to reduce the nutrient load to the receiving aquatic environment.

During the 2018/2019 financial year, a wetlands project proposal was presented by an Umgeni Water employee at the International Water Association Young Water Professionals 2019 conference in Toronto, Canada. An Umgeni Water team also visited the Ventersburg WWTW in Toronto. This WWTW is completely passive and uses phytoremediation to treat its domestic wastewater. At present, planning for construction of the floating wetlands is underway.

Alien Aquatic Weed Management

Well managed and sustainable water resources are critical to Umgeni Water’s core function of providing  sustainable potable water supply.  Alien aquatic weeds introduced into various water resources pose a significant risk to water quality and quantity. The primary threats are posed by Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes); Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) and Kariba weed (Salvinia molesta). These free-floating aquatic plants are extremely difficult to control in eutrophic waters due to their exponential growth rate and invasion of the riverine environment.

In 2018/2019, progress with Alien Aquatic Weed Management at Umgeni Water included:

  • Close cooperation with the Alien Weed Working-group;
  • Aerial herbicide control and the release of host specific bio-control agents in several impoundments and river systems in particular the uMsunduzi and uMngeni River; and
  • Regular monitoring and assessment of the weed status.

Msinsi Holdings Land and Sustainable Resource management

Msinsi Holdings SOC Ltd a wholly-owned subsidiary of Umgeni Water is mandated to manage the land and biodiversity of the areas around the dams owned or managed by Umgeni Water in a manner that balances the divergent factors of local community development provision of recreational facilities for the public and water resources/biodiversity protection.

These reserves are located at:

  • Spring Grove Dam;
  • Albert Falls Dam;
  • Nagle Dam;
  • Inanda Dam; and
  • Hazelmere Dam.

Detailed management plans for each of the reserves  in line with industry best practice  have been completed and form the basis for all operations in the reserves. In the past year Msinsi has been successful in protecting the habitats and ensuring an ecological sustainable and protected water environment through implementing its resource management plans which focused on:

  • The management of the game and species according to the carrying capacity of each reserve;
  • Local community development;
  • Recreation for the public;
  • Grassland management;
  • Control of pollution inside the purchase areas: and
  • Removal of alien invasive plants both terrestrial and aquatic.

The ecological balance was effectively managed during this period through the implementation of Reserve Management Plans. In particular carrying capacity was managed to ensure sustainability of wildlife populations and measures to mitigate poaching which has been a significant threat to the reserve wildlife were put in place.

Security patrols are conducted as per a patrol plan in order to identify and mitigate security risks to the reserves including ensuring reserve fence lines are in good condition.

Msinsi Holdings continues to be seen as a significant player in the conservation and tourism sector in KwaZulu-Natal and the state-owned company will continue to ensure that ecosystem services provided by water and environmental resources continue to be sustainable.

Stakeholder engagement successfully created value for Msinsi’s operations and the communities at large during this reporting period. As a result there was no interruption of Msinsi’s operations as a result of community instability in the neighbouring areas.

Msinsi continued providing environmental education targeting surrounding communities. Fifty (50) environmental education initiatives in areas of water conservation environmental awareness and commemoration of environmental special days were implemented. These initiatives reached schools and communities living adjacent to Msinsi-managed establishments.

Sourcing labour within the communities around Msinsi operations created job opportunities for the communities with a total of 342 temporary jobs created during the reporting period.

In partnership with other stakeholders a total of seven (7) graduates, in-service trainees and interns received training opportunities in fields ranging from Hospitality to Human Resources Management. Msinsi Holdings is planning to sustain its training programmes in order to continue to contribute to skills development particularly for the youth from neighbouring communities.

Waste Management

Globally, waste management has undergone a major paradigm shift towards the concept of the circular economy, where waste is seen as a new resource rather than being discarded. The circular economy recognises the value of ‘waste items’, repurposing them as alternative resources that can be used again and again in a circular goods cycle. Waste is one of the five focus areas, identified by the South African Government to have the practical opportunities to realise green economy.

In terms of UW’s contributions towards a greener economy, the organisation has adopted and is implementing an environmental sustainability plan. Sustainability plan has identified waste management as one of the sustainability initiatives of using different waste streams as a resource through different initiatives such as recycling. During 2018/19, the total waste that was produced is 1281 kg per million cubic meters and 4.13% of the waste was recycled. This indicates an increase in the waste recycled during this reporting period compared to 2017/ 2018.  Trends in waste management are shown in Figures 6 and 7.

Water Treatment Residues and Waste Water Sludge

Water treatment residues (WTRs) and wastewater sludge are the major waste streams that are produced during the operations of Water Treatment Works (WTWs) and Wastewater Treatment Works (WWTWs) respectively. The management of sludge thus forms an integral component of the core business of Umgeni Water. Current sludge management practices include on and off site disposal and river discharges. However, these practices are not sustainable due to the environmental impacts associated with on-site disposal, the limited space for landfill and the impact of the river discharges on the aquatic ecosystem. In addition, the current sludge management practices have posed challenges in recent years due to changes in the environmental legislation requiring more expensive landfill liners and leachate management at all landfill sites. Therefore UW, undertook studies to assesses the opportunities of using the sludge and WTRs as the resource rather than disposing it to landfill sites.

The sludge was characterized for the alternative uses of wastes such as agricultural use, using the calorific value or making products using the waste. This basic classification then provided a framework for the management option associated with such alternative uses and storage. Based on waste classification, research and literature review, eight sludge management options were identified and assessed for the water treatment residues and wastewater treatment sludge. The sludge management options that were assessed are:

  • Agricultural Use;
  • Composting Application;
  • Thermal Treatment (Incineration);
  • Produce a saleable product (Brick Manufacturing Application);
  • Land Application;
  • Sewer Disposal;
  • River Discharge; and
  • Metal Recovery.

The preferred options are land application and composting for the water treatment residues and the wastewater sludge respectively. WTR can be applied to agricultural land as a soil conditioner.  Wastewater sludge contains organic matter and nutrients that can provide soil benefits. Therefore, it can be used as organic compost. A composting facility will be constructed at a central location, thereafter all the sludge will be transported to this central facility for further processing.

Environmental performance of Operational sites 

Annual environmental audits are undertaken at operational sites the objectives of which are:

  • To assess whether the site is complying with all applicable environmental legislation and regulations;
  • To assess internal policy and procedural compliance in relational to environmental management;
  • To assess the status of energy consumption waste management and biodiversity management at the site and alignment with corporate environmental sustainability initiatives; and
  • To recommend mitigation measures to address areas of non-conformance.

Operational environmental audits were conducted at twenty-eight (28) sites for 2018/2019. Of a total of 114 findings, seven (7) findings were rated above moderate.

Table 3: Environmental Findings Classification

 

Environmental findings at a corporate level related to

  • The storage and disposal of sludge at all WWTW’s are not compliant with NEMWA requirements. In addition, the storage and disposal of water treatment residues was also non-compliant in most water treatment work’s;
  • Non-compliances against discharge Water Use Licenses (WUL) in terms of effluent quality and monitoring requirements;
  • No authorized discharge licenses, WUL or General Authorisation (GA) were in place in some of the new sites that have been taken over by Umgeni Water as well as well as some of the existing WTWs. This resulted in Effluent and water treatment  residues are being discharged into water resources without the required licenses; and
  • Low inflow volumes due to sewer reticulation system leaks, resulting in pollution of the surrounding environment and catchment dam.

Mitigation measures and action plans have already been put in place to address these findings.

Environmental Incidents

There were fifty-two (52) environmental incidents recorded for the 2018/2019 financial year compared to sixty-five (65) incidents in the previous year (Figure 8). Umgeni Water has in the recent past acquired additional water and wastewater treatment works for which systems will progressively be put in place to improve performance.

Integrated Environmental Management

Umgeni Water’s core business function is the treatment and supply of bulk potable water and wastewater treatment services. Business operations is highly reliant on the natural resource, which is freshwater resources, although there has been measures to venture into other sources of water. In this regard, the natural environment is core to Umgeni Water. The assessment and management of environmental aspects, which could arise from the development of new infrastructure projects, is managed through the integrated environmental management system (IEM). The IEM is a philosophy that is concerned with finding the right balance between development and the environment and provides an overarching framework for the integration of environmental assessment and management principles into environmental decision-making. IEM has various tools, which can be applied at different stages of the activity life cycle such as planning, design, construction, operations and closure. These include conducting environmental screenings, environmental impact assessments (EIAs), Environmental Management Plans (EMPs), and auditing, specialist inputs.

(figure 9 here)
Figure 9: Integrated environmental management system in the implementation of new infrastructure projects

Umgeni Water utilises the EIA tool governed by the provisions of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA), which stipulates that projects that trigger listed activities as stipulated in the regulations are required to obtain an environmental authorisation (EA) either a basic assessment (BA) or a scoping and full environmental impact assessment process (EIA). Where project developments do not trigger listed activities as defined in the Act, the environmental screening and EMP tools are utilised to ensure that all the potential environmental impacts emanating from project implementation are eliminated or minimised to acceptable levels. There are currently twenty one (21) projects in the planning, design or procurement phase, which are being managed through the IEM System as depicted in Tables 4 and 5 below.

Table 4: Environmental Authorisation status for key Bulk Infrastructure Projects

 

Table 5: Project with no listed activities

 

Delays in the application processes have been experienced, in turn causing delays in the implementation and construction of infrastructure projects. In most instances, these delays were attributed to significant negative environmental impacts not being identified at the early stages of the project lifecycle process resulting in re-design and delays to the construction process. Of significance is, the delay experienced in one of the largest bulk water schemes being undertaken, the uMkhomazi Water Project. This was in relation to the specialist avifaunal study, identifying that certain project components pose risks to the habitat of the critically endangered Blue Swallows. This resulted in project delays and increase in project costs, as there were layout and design changes that need to be made.

To curb and minimise project delays due to the environmental process, Umgeni Water is in the process of integrating the IEM system into the EPCM (Engineering, Procurement, and Construction Management) system. Umgeni Water’s EPCM system is managed through the Project Lifecycle Process (PLP) where there is a formal, structured gate review process to assess the deliverables of each project stage to ensure they meet the defined requirements and standards for that stage. With this system, environmental fatal flaws will be identified early in the process. Tolls to the PLP have been initiated and work is in progress.

There are ten (10) projects currently in the construction phase, which are monitored for compliance against the Environmental Management Plans by the Environmental Control Officers (ECO), Environmental Site Officers (ESO) and Environmental Scientists.   The overall environmental performance has been satisfactory, however, minor non-compliances were identified and mitigation measures implemented timeously. The non-compliances included:

  • Alien weed infestations at construction camps and stockpile areas;
  • Poor grass germination in rehabilitated areas, in some areas seeds are washed away by rainfall runoff;
  • Poor waste management, overfilled waste receptacles, litter on sites, rubble and pipe off-cuts, spoil material at a wetland site, stockpile of burnt brush on site, poor housekeeping, concrete rubble stored on site;
  • Free flow of the river affected by the construction, unstable river banks and signs of erosion were observed;
  • Improper top soil storage, stockpile exceeding the acceptable 2m height and topsoil used as bedding material for the power cable, top soil mixed with subsoil on site, stockpile erosion;
  • Site not properly repaired, damaged road, no demarcation around chamber, chamber left open some covered with wood;
  • Inadequately wetland rehabilitation and;
  • Drip trays not placed underneath heavy machinery, diesel/ oil spills, hydrocarbon spillages observed.

Umgeni Water was issued with a notice of intention to issue a directive by DWS for the Bruntville Pipeline Project. This was as a result of the contractor disposing construction rubble in a wetland. Umgeni Water was required to appoint a Rehabilitation Specialist to develop and submit a rehabilitation plan to address the infilling of the Bruntville wetland. The rehabilitation plan has been submitted to DWS for approval. Although there were environmental impacts identified, good environmental practice is our objective and all activities will be diligently undertaken in an environmentally sustainable manner.

CAREERS