An aerial photo of Hazelmere Dam.
Heavy rains have pushed up the level of Hazelmere Dam, in the north of Durban, to approximately 70%, which poses a risk to the wall extension that is currently under construction.
This has resulted in Umgeni Water, which manages this dam, taking a decision to release water from the dam on an emergency basis in order to reduce the level to 53%.
“The releases will occur in a phased manner, meaning that every endeavour will be made to try to prevent the river bursting its banks.
“This will be occur through opening the first valve to release water, then allowing the river level to stablise, before opening the second valve later,” said Umgeni Water’s corporate stakeholder manager, Shami Harichunder, on Sunday morning
The first release began on Sunday, May 2022, and it was expected to take two-three days to reach 53%.
“Communities residing close to or on the banks of the Umdloti River are reminded that when water is released from Hazelmere Dam, the level of the river rises rapidly. This could pose a risk to the safety of any person who tries to cross the river. It could also pose risk to structures erected on the river’s banks,” Harichunder.
He said the rapid rise in the dam level overnight on Saturday was the result of heavy rains in the catchments of Hazelmere Dam.
“The release is necessary to maintain a safe operating level, set at 53% in the interim pending completion of the raising of the wall project. If the level of the dam is kept at 70%, water will go over the wall that is under construction and it could topple,” Harichunder said.
He said the raising of the dam wall project was commissioned by the Department of Water and Sanitation and, after protracted delays caused by construction-related complications, the contractor has returned to site. About 10% of the work remains unfinished and completion is scheduled for end of 2022.
“When completed, the raised wall will more than double the storage capacity of the dam, thus reducing risk of water shortages occurring again.”
The most recent case of water inadequacy in Hazelmere Dam occurred during the drought of 2015-2017.