36 days to go before Nelson Mandela Bay runs out of water

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Nelson Mandela Bay is expecting to run out of water.
Nelson Mandela Bay is expecting to run out of water.
Dylan Bush
  • By June, taps in large parts of the Nelson Mandela Bay metro will run dry as dams in the municipality stand at less than 3%.
  • The mayor is embarking on marathon meetings with businesses and communities to urge them to cut water consumption.
  • The DA said thanks to ineffective awareness campaigns, residents continued using 299ML of water per day, while demand should have been reduced to between 230 and 250ML.  

In 36 days, 107 areas in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro will be without water as dams in the municipality stand at less than 3%. 

The areas in which taps will run dry in June include the western suburbs and the Uitenhage/KwaNobuhle area as well as peri-urban areas such as Greenbushes and St Albans, where one of the Eastern Cape's biggest prisons is situated. 

Millions will be left without water to drink, cook or clean, unless they drastically reduce their water consumption to ridiculously low levels.

READ | Nelson Mandela Bay metro edging dangerously towards Day Zero as dam levels hover at 11%

The metro said if no significant rain fell in the catchment areas in coming days, it would be faced with an unprecedented water disaster. 

Gqeberha South Africa Weather Services meteorologist Lelo Kleinbooi said although rain was expected over the weekend, it would not be enough to make a difference.

Its spokesperson, Garth Sampson, added: "We are expecting 5mm to 10mm of this rain this weekend but it is not enough to make a difference. The seasonal forecast until September is dismal to say the last least." 

City spokesperson Mthubanzi Mniki said: "In terms of the water supply and usage statistics on 4 May 2022, we are only left with 38 days of water availability." 

In a desperate attempt to avoid impending disaster, Nelson Mandela Bay Mayor Eugene Johnson will host public information sessions with residents to ask them to reduce their water consumption. 

The municipality said community halls would be opened across the city for the public to watch the presentations live on the municipality's Facebook and YouTube pages. 

This comes a day after Johnson hosted an information session for councillors.    

The councillors were informed of the current crisis, its magnitude and plans that would be put in place to mitigate its impact.

The DA's spokesperson on infrastructure and engineering, Dries van der Westhuizen, said councillors were also briefed about emergency plans which included water tanks and tankers, ground water augmentation, and watering points to supply identified areas by installing communal taps. 

READ | Steenhuisen slams water department as dams supplying Nelson Mandela Bay drop to 11%

"Most of these emergency measures and water augmentation projects are unable to be implemented due to delays in procurement or project finalisation," added Van der Westhuizen.  

He said the municipality's public awareness campaigns about the water crisis did not work as residents continue using 299ML of water per day, while demand should have been reduced to between 230 and 250ML per day. 

Van der Westhuizen added the metro would be one of the first metropolitans in the world to run out of water.

The combined level of its main supply dams is standing at 13.07%.  

Johnson also met with the NMB Business Chamber to discuss the impact the crisis will have on the local business sector and options available to it to mitigate the effects. 

Van der Westhuizen said the meeting between the mayor and councillors was the first time councillors have officially been informed about which areas would run dry. 

"There also seems to be no sense of urgency or plan to encourage residents to drastically reduce their water consumption immediately.

"Should the metro be able to reduce its current consumption from 299ML to 230ML a day, Day Zero could potentially be pushed back to October 2022. This will buy time to complete much-needed water augmentation and drought mitigation projects." 

According to him, no mention was made of emergency measures using "any water other than our treated supply, such as reusing effluent or spring water". 

READ | DA asks UN for help with Eastern Cape drought crisis, accuses govt of incompetence

Van der Westhuizen said there was also no plan to accelerate the installation of water restrictions in households and businesses with excessively high water-consumption patterns. 

To add to the water woes, he added, the metro did not have an acting executive director for infrastructure and engineering, leaving the directorate leaderless during this critical time.

"The DA has repeatedly made recommendations regarding innovative ideas to stretch our water resources, but our calls have not been heeded." 

Van der Westhuizen said the party would once again appeal to the national government to intervene in the unfolding crisis, but also urged residents to conserve water resources.

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