By MKHUSELI SIZANI and THAMSANQA MBOVANE
- Last week, the combined dam levels in the Nelson Mandela Bay region dropped to an alarming 15%, of which only 9% is usable water.
- A senior worker at the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality says Churchill Dam will dry up by April should the current drought continue.
- Impofu Dam is at just over 7%, the lowest level since being constructed in 1983.
- Makhanda’s dams are healthier, but the city’s water supply is still heavily constrained.
Makhanda’s water supply has been under stress for over a decade. But a senior Nelson Mandela Bay official has warned that the Churchill Dam will dry up by April if the drought continues.
The dam currently supplies water to the southern and western suburbs of Nelson Mandela Bay, including parts of the densely populated KwaZakhele and New Brighton townships.
The official, who asked not to be named, said that thousands of households in these communities and parts of the Kouga Municipality would be without running water should the dam run dry.
The official said that should this happen, water will be pumped directly from the Nooitgedacht water scheme. “When this process starts, people should know very well that we have reached Day Zero,” the official said.
By contrast, Makhanda received over 700mm of rain in 2022, just above the long-term average. The city’s main supply dam, the Glen Melville Dam, is kept full by the Fish River/Orange River scheme. However, the water supply remains at about 10 megalitres a day until the James Kleyshans Water Treatment Works upgrade is hopefully completed in 2023.
Howieson’s Poort Dam on the city’s western side overflowed in December, and water levels at the larger Settlers Dam have climbed above the 40% mark.
Last week, Nelson Mandela Bay Mayor Retief Odendaal urged residents to reduce their daily water consumption urgently. As of 11 January, the combined dam level was 15%, of which only 9% is usable water.
In the statement, Odendaal said that the City could no longer meet its daily water demand of 286 megalitres. As of 9 January, dam levels were recorded as follows: Churchill Dam was at 31%, Kouga Dam was at 16%, Groendal Dam was at 16%, and Loerie Dam was at 47%. The City highlighted that the Impofu Dam level, at just over 7%, is at the lowest level it has ever been.
“The pumps on the barge near the intake tower will soon reach the riverbed and will need to be moved. The new barge, 6km downstream near the dam wall, requires electrical connections before it can be brought online. This will allow the municipality to draw the remaining dead storage from this dam.
“The drought situation is real, and we need everyone to take it seriously and reduce their water consumption,” Odendaal pleaded in the statement.
Each person has been asked to use 50 litres of water daily. Despite the current crisis, many residents and visitors ignored the water restrictions over the festive period.
In Govan Mbeki and Zwide, the municipality installed water meters last year to monitor and restrict consumption better.
Nozuko Singaphi from Zwide said, “The meters are good under the current water crisis, but we have big families. We do most of our traditions in summer, like slaughtering and homecoming parties for the initiates. Everybody is at home, and consumption of water increases.”
Charles Grootboom from Govan Mbeki township said, “I had to buy a water tank for R2,500 to have enough water for my family of five and for when I do my traditional functions.”
In Kariega, hundreds of Gunguluza residents in Area 11 have been hit hard by the water shortage since July 2022. One of the municipal water truck drivers told GroundUp that they had to make three daily trips to the area to get enough water.
Resident Khayalethu Kate said people often go days without municipal water. “I call the municipality for the water truck to deliver water. We complain every day. The water in those trucks is not even clean … sometimes you have to boil it before cooking porridge for kids,” he said.
Kate said the situation was worse for the many people with disabilities living in council homes.
In the Kouga Municipality, Mayor Horatio Hendricks said that while households still had running water, beach showers have been prohibited.
Hendricks told GroundUp, “We share the Churchill, Impofu and Loerie dams. So the current water situation in Nelson Mandela Bay has a severe [impact]on our region’s water supply.
“We draw just 30% of our full annual water quota from the dams.”
Hendricks said that should it get to a stage when taps run dry, the municipality plans to deploy about 100 water tankers when needed.
“Two of the four [water]plants to purify borehole water are already completed. Kouga Municipality will soon be able to supply drinkable borehole water to residents,” he said.
The mayor said the first plant was built at the Humansdorp water treatment works and the second plant at the Jeffreys Bay water treatment works building.
Two more plants are planned for Hankey and St Francis Bay. These will be completed soon, he said.
This article was first published by GroundUp.co.za.