The long-awaited and critical Richards Bay Desalination Plant in KwaZulu-Natal was recently officially launched by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS).

Sub-Saharan Africa is a water-scarce region and thousands of individuals, especially in rural areas, still do not have access to safe and accessible water supply and sanitation services. This desalination plant was launched in recognition of the centrality of water in all socio-economic development.

The South African government realises that the water sector is critical for transformation and development objectives. The KZN Provincial Cabinet issued a drought disaster declaration in December 2014 after having experienced sustained drought conditions which devastated many farms in the area, including sustainable farms.

The Emergency Water Transfer Scheme was activated in July 2014 – water was pumped from the Thukela River into the Goedertrouw Dam to ensure the dam does not fail, while the DWS looked into other means of ensuring they met future water challenges.

Things got really bad with all of the local natural resources running so low that they could not be used for drinking water, including the Goedertrouw Dam, the main supply to Richards Day, which dropped to a dangerously low level of 16% during August 2016.

The 10 Megalitre/day desalination plant was introduced to augment the domestic water supply and avoid further hardship for the communities in and around Richards Bay. The plant will benefit the town of Richards Bay as well as the surrounding communities of Mandlazini, Nseleni, Khoza, Mzingazi and the Mbonambi Rural Water Supply Scheme.

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”.

Mapolwane, Khoza, Nseleni, Mandlazini, Meerensee and Brackenham reservoirs in the area have all greatly improved since the operation of the desalination plant, moving from an average of only 55% to 90% full.

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