The Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (LHWC) has unveiled plans for a crucial six-month shutdown of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) tunnel system, set to commence on October 1, 2024. This strategic move is aimed at implementing essential maintenance and repair work.

In a significant development, the LHWC will suspend water supply to the Republic of South Africa (RSA) to conduct the necessary inspections and repairs. This operation will require the LHWP tunnel system to be temporarily shut down and emptied, enabling comprehensive work to be carried out.

Launched in January 1998, LHWP-1 has remained operational for 25 years, necessitating periodic checks and maintenance, usually taking place every five to ten years. The 2024 planned shutdown will facilitate a thorough examination and restoration of the Delivery Tunnel North (DTN) and Ash River Outfall. Core services will include detailed evaluations, repair advisories, and comprehensive reports on components that are only accessible when the system is water-free.

The Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) operates and maintains the DTN and RSA section of the LHWP tunnel system. TCTA will also execute critical maintenance and repair work on the DTN and Ash River Outfall. To kickstart this vital maintenance process, TCTA has entered into a contract with Hatch Africa.

At a recent signing ceremony held at TCTA offices in Centurion, Bruce MacKay, the US-based Managing Director for Hatch's water business, represented Hatch Africa. Johannes Mavuso, the TCTA Executive Manager for Project Management and Implementation, represented the organization. Mavuso expressed enthusiasm for this project stage, stating: "This partnership underscores the significance of the LHWP-1 to TCTA and the Department of Water and Sanitation. The project stands as a monumental bi-national infrastructure initiative between Lesotho and South Africa." He emphasized the need to engage with all key stakeholders affected by the shutdown and to carefully monitor water use and flow in the rivers throughout the maintenance period.

Furthermore, this scheduled outage will address vital repairs identified during the 2019 inspection, including the rehabilitation of steel liners and dewatering shaft piping. Recommendations for repair work along the Ash River will also be formulated.