Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority: Tapping into water expertise

In this day and age there is a special onus on safe water supply and environmental management. Within South Africa this is keenly felt as the Government strives to develop infrastructure to deliver safe, clean water for all of its citizens.

Helping to make that essential need a reality is the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA), a state-owned entity considered a specialised liability management body, with the mission to finance and implement bulk raw water infrastructure.

TCTA was established in terms of Government Notice No 2631 in Government Gazette No 10545, dated 12 December 1986. The notice was replaced by Government Notice 277 in Government Gazette No 21017 dated 24 March 2000, promulgated in terms of the National Water Act, 1988(Chapter 10).

The organisation’s website provides a concise overview of where TCTA sits within the national framework:

“The National Government, through the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs has overall responsibility for and authority over the nation’s water resources. This includes their use, equitable allocation of water for beneficial use, redistribution of water and international water matters.

shutterstock_113655994“To fulfil this responsibility, the Minister, through the Department of Water Affairs, builds and manages water resource infrastructure to store water and transfers it to where the demand arises.

“Previously this infrastructure was built on budget by the National Government. TCTA was originally established as a special purpose vehicle to fulfil South Africa’s treaty obligations in respect of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. Its establishment was in line with Government policy and practice to seek off –balance sheet funding options for infrastructure projects that can recover their costs through the end user tariffs.

“The purpose of constructing works off-budget is twofold: to ensure that the cost of the infrastructure is paid for by the benefiting end consumer and not by the entire tax base; and to reduce the Government borrowing requirements.

“Since the original mandate, TCTA has received a further 10 directives to implement and/or fund portions of the National Water Resource Infrastructure,” the site explains.

Last year The SA-Mag spoke to Khudu Mbeba, Senior Manager for Transformation, Stakeholder Management and Communications, who explained how TCTA has evolved:

“Our organisation was started in 1986 mainly for the implementation of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), a bi-national project spanning the borders of the Republic of South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho, which had the aim of bringing water from Lesotho to Gauteng’s economic hub.”

The project required enormous engineering expertise and diverts water from the Senqu River in Lesotho to the Gauteng region.

The first phase of the project, to build the Katse Dam, was completed in 1998. The concrete arch dam was built across the Malibamatso River, whilst the Matsoku weir and tunnel were constructed to collect water from the Matsoku River. A 48.2 kilometre long transfer tunnel between the Katse reservoir and the Muela hydroelectric power station, in northern Lesotho was also built, whilst a 110 MW hydropower plant was created at Muela.

The second phase of the project was completed in 2002 and saw the construction of the Mohale dam on the Senqunyane River and the transfer tunnel between Mohale and the Katse reservoir.

“Our mandate then expanded to do other things for the Department of Water Affairs,” Mbeba recalled, “we are now an implementing agent and we provide work on a variety of different projects that assist in improving bulk raw water infrastructure.

“When we started out with a single project, we had just 30 employees and today that figure has grown to over 150. We are working on 8 separate projects concurrently,” he continued.

The quality of TCTA’s work has raised the organisation’s profile and opened up new doors of opportunity to work on other projects, as Mbeba outlined:

“Our profile has undoubtedly raised with the number of projects we are now undertaking for the Department. We have subsequently increased the variety of services we offer customers and we are working closely with parastatal organisations like SASOL and Eskom, to help build bulk raw water infrastructure, so we have become well known to the financial institutions for being credit worthy.”

master_pic01TCTA’s work with other organisations underlines the intrinsic link that water supply has to a nation’s energy demands – given South Africa’s continued reliance on coal power stations that require water of course.

The Lesotho Highlands Water Project is ongoing, while TCTA has also played a key role in the R1.6 billion Berg Water Project in Franschhoek, providing a water supply to the City of Cape Town.

Other important projects include the Komati Water Scheme Augmentation Project, which has seen TCTA work in collaboration with Eskom, to resolve the water supply issues at the energy supplier’s Duvha and Matla power stations.

Other high profile projects have included the Mokolo Crocodile Water Augmentation Project which involves constructing a pump station and 45 kilometre pipeline which will deliver 30 million cubic metres of water each year from the Mokolo Dam.

The Olifants River Water Resources Development Project is an extensive water resource development project which will supply water for domestic and industrial (mining) use in the Limpopo Province.

TCTA has also been involved in the second phase of the Mooi-Mgeni Transfer Scheme, which has the aim to construct the Spring Grove Dam and associated infrastructure in KwaZulu-Natal, to increase the volume of water in the Mgeni System to 394 cubic metres each year.

At VRESAP, the organisation helped to implement the extensive Vaal River Eastern Subsystem Augmentation Project, which required the installation of a temporary floating pump station until permanent works were completed.

TCTA has developed a wide range of expertise over the past 28 years and continues to thrive, as Mbeba affirmed:

“We try to aim for 2 new projects per year ideally, but each new job takes time to come to fruition, with political processes often prolonged before we can obtain the approvals we need to start.

“We are trusted as the agency for water supply infrastructure work. We are looking at the possibility to amend our notice of establishment which would enable us to diversify our services, giving us an opportunity to provide an advisory service to other entities.

“We have a huge volume of knowledge which we want to share with the water sector; not just here in South Africa but across the SADC region.

“The provision of water always has to happen and we are privileged in that sense and find that people are always willing to listen – although we still have to prove that each project is bankable,” he reflected.

With South Africa’s infrastructure development very much an ongoing concern, the future looks bright for TCTA.