• Drew Wilson


It’s the sweetest feeling when I get to work in an area that holds special memories. Having completed the Dusi canoe marathon in uMgungundlovu five times, I’m really excited to announce Eco Eng’s appointment to a significant water infrastructure project in Nkanyezini, KwaZulu Natal.

Water is life and sanitation is dignity – this is a cornerstone statement straight from the South African Human Rights Commission. We know it and yet we often take water for granted. Think about your morning routine. How different would it look if you didn’t have reliable access to clean water?

In South Africa water-related issues are a big concern, especially given the implications for health, economic development and environmental protection. Earlier this year, the Water and Sanitation Department said more than five million South Africans don’t have access to reliable drinking water, 14.1 million people don’t have access to safe sanitation and only 56% of wastewater treatment plants across the country work. Our needs are so vast!

One of the greatest privileges of being an engineer is being able to build infrastructure where it’s needed most. Even if the bigger picture is overwhelming, we can still make a difference!

Home, sweet home

We’re working with uMgungundlovu District Municipality to upgrade an outdated and insufficient water supply system. The R100 million project will supply fresh water to over 1,200 families and homes in the district! Together we'll build a whopping 30 megalitre reservoir, a number of break pressure tanks and over 155 kilometres of underground pipes (that’s a trip from Durban to Pietermaritzburg… and back).


It takes full collaboration to complete a project like this safely, efficiently and sustainably. Eco Eng has partnered with the main contractor to provide onsite and contractual management assistance and mentoring. We’ll supervise all construction-related activities throughout each stage from planning to execution. All whilst making sure the team meets its contractual obligations, deadlines and budgets going forward.

Finding solutions

Large construction projects rarely get going without hiccups. Since the conception of this project in early 2016, the settled Nkanyezini population has increased significantly. As a result, the original design won’t satisfy demand and would be irresponsible to build. After going back to the drawing board several times and seeking additional funding, the design team has incorporated the additional piping and water connections now needed.

Another challenge, although not unique to this project, is meeting the legislated SMME subcontractor requirements. At least 30% of the project’s budget must be awarded to local subcontractors, which is an excellent initiative but tricky to achieve given the rural location. The availability of eligible subcontractors in the area who are suitable for the size and scale of works is limited. But there’s always a silver lining! One way to overcome this challenge is to put together a mentorship programme to provide opportunities for skills training and education. Watch this space!

Environmental considerations

Planning a 155 kilometre route for water supply isn’t an easy feat, especially in a rural area without much other infrastructure. The exact route needs to determined taking into account any obstacles like trees, shrubbery and existing services. Environmental experts and community liaison officers will be brought into the route planning process early. This is important because without their input the project may unintentionally cause environmental harm. This deliberate move to strengthen the onsite management team will help us achieve our environmental goals, benefiting all stakeholders.

Watershed moment

Our goal is to help the people of Nkanyezini have a better quality of life. The success of this project will be two-fold. We want each household to have reliable access to clean water and the local community to benefit from sustainable job creation, training and subcontractor procurement. We’ll know we’re on the right track when we complete our first big milestone – the construction of the 30 megalitre reservoir!


Client: uMgungundlovu District Municipality

Contractor: Mlo, New Boss and Zamisanani (joint venture)

Budget: Approximately R100 million

Key features: 30 megalitre reservoir and 155 kilometres of pipework

Duration: 18 months

Location: Nkanyezini, KwaZulu Natal

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