Eastern Cape on high alert as water supplies ‘dwindle rapidly’

Nooitgedacht. Picture: Lulama Zenzile
Nooitgedacht. Picture: Lulama Zenzile

Across the Eastern Cape, dam levels have plummeted to severely low levels. The latest figures of dam capacity in the province show the Kouga Dam at 7.71%, Churchill Dam at 18.71%, Impofu Dam at 43.47%, Loerie Dam at 86.55% and Groendal Dam at 51.80%.

The Democratic Alliance has asked Minister of Water and Sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane to intervene in the water crisis in Nelson Mandela Bay Metro.

Leon Basson, MP of the official opposition and shadow minister for water and sanitation, visited the Nooitgedacht low level water scheme in Port Elizabeth and found that “citizens in the area are being confronted by a rapidly dwindling water supply due to the crippling drought in the region”.

Basson said the towns of Humansdorp and Patensie, which heavily rely on the Kouga Dam, now face a serious risk of running dry as the region was declared a disaster area in May 2017.

“The department of water and sanitation is required to provide the bulk water supply to municipalities across the country to enable the distribution of water to their citizens, especially where communities face dire conditions of droughts and water scarcity.

“Mokonyane must now urgently ensure the availability of water as per the constitutional mandate of her department,” Basson said.

“The reality is that national government failed in its duty to ensure an adequate supply of water and repair and maintain the aged water infrastructure which has exacerbated the severe water shortages in drought stricken provinces of the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Limpopo.

“Minister Mokonyane as the rightful custodian of the country’s water under the National Water Act has a legal mandate to work hand in hand with local and provincial authorities to find solutions to the crippling drought. At the end of the day all South Africans will be impacted in some way or another if the water crises throughout the country is not resolved,” Basson said.

Mlimandlela Ndamase, spokesperson for the minister water and sanitation, Mokonyane said the department was already intervening in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro as it was doing in other drought-stricken areas.

“We have intervened already. Take for instance in Port Elizabeth, phase three of the Nooitgedacht low level water scheme is being implemented by national department of water and sanitation. The department has appointed Amatola Water as the implementing agent and it is specifically being done to provide water to the city. This is meant to increase the capacity to meet the needs of the Nelson Mandela Metro,” Ndamase said.

He said the completion of the R480 million Nooitgedacht low level water scheme was expected to be in 2019.

“This is not a dam. It’s a water scheme. It’s about being able to build the necessary pipelines and canals, to move water from one place to the next,” he said.

Ndamase said since there was already an intervention under way to augment the water supply in the Nelson Mandela Bay region including surroundings, Sarah Bartman and Aldo, citizens and the municipality should do their part by using water sparingly and managing water leaks.

“To survive the drought it means that there needs to be drastic reduction in the use of water. People must use water optimally. The municipality must focus itself on maintaining infrastructure and reduce leaks in the system and water losses and manage water conservation. If the municipality does this successfully they would not fall into the same situation as Cape Town,” Ndamase said

Athol Trollip, Nelson Mandela Bay Metro mayor, said their dams were at 24% on average. He called it a crisis and said the city had been declared a drought disaster area.

He said the Kouga dam had reached a critical level of 7%. The metro had stopped using the Churchill dam when it reached this level. It had now risen to over 20% and was being kept as reserve.

“Basson has petitioned the department of water and sanitation not to cut the allocated budget of R93 million to go towards completion of phase 3 of the Nooitgedacht low level water augmentation scheme. The department has now reversed the decision to cut the budget and work will proceed again on Monday. When completed this scheme will deliver 210 megalitres of water a day. This means we won’t reach Day Zero,” said Trollip.

He said they were in the process of asking for a R450-million loan to upgrade the archaic water infrastructure in order to reduce non revenue losses, to drill production boreholes at Coega and other sites near reservoirs and dams to augment existing dams and the Nooitgedacht/Gariep dam water.

“We commend everyone who has adapted their water use habits, consumption has come down. However we will monitor every household and businesses use, restrict high users by throttling water and cutting off after exceeding daily limits. We are also buying more meters to replace old under reading meters and to install in the 28 000 unmetered houses, because if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” Trollip said.

Ndamase disputed claims that the department had cut down the budget from the Nooitgedacht low level water scheme, saying this was just a normal cost management process.

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