THE desalination plant at Alkantstrand is already in production and by the time it is commissioned on 1 February, it will supply enough water to supply Meerensee, Mzingazi and Mbonambi.

Speaking at a drought crisis meeting in Richards Bay on Tuesday, Muneka Paradzai, Project Manager at the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) said the salt water to drinking water plant was already producing 3.5 megalitres (Ml), which would climb to 10Ml in full production.

‘Testing is being done and the taste is excellent – slightly sweeter than consumers are accustomed to.

‘The water from the plant will be sent to the Meerensee reservoir.

‘The 10Ml will not only supply the low-lying greater Meerensee area, but in doing so, will relieve pressure from the rest of the city.’

Ashley Starkey, Provincial Head, DWS: KZN, added that DWS was extremely proud of the desalination plant, which went from decision to construction to commissioning in less than eight months.

‘This is the largest and most modern desalination plant in the country.

‘And although it is more costly to produce than conventional methods, the fact it was built with a construction grant from government means only the operating costs must be recouped, making the cost per litre basically the same.

‘So Meerensee residents need not worry – they will pay the same as everyone else.

‘The most important factor is the assurance of supply.’

Arrangements for the operation of the plant are still being negotiated, with Mhlathuze Water being the most likely operator.

Concerns were expressed that no public participation and environmental impact studies were conducted prior to installation, especially with regard to discharge permits for the brine byproduct.