PICS | Nelson Mandela Bay residents blame years of neglected leaks for dry dams

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Kouga Dam in Patensie is the largest one serving the Nelson Mandela Bay area. Without significant rainfall, swifter and more effective leak repairs, and reduced consumption, it will run dry in July.
Kouga Dam in Patensie is the largest one serving the Nelson Mandela Bay area. Without significant rainfall, swifter and more effective leak repairs, and reduced consumption, it will run dry in July.
Mkhuseli Sizani

Many residents of Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality argue a long-term failure to fix the leaks that affect townships and informal settlements had contributed to the predicted "Dry July", when all four of the major dams supplying water to the city might run out of usable water, according to GroundUp.


Many residents of Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality blame the muniicpality for their water woes.

They argued a long-term failure to fix the leaks that affect townships and informal settlements had contributed to the predicted "Dry July", when all four of the major dams supplying water to the city might run out of usable water, according to GroundUp.On 28 April, Mayor Nqaba Bhanga described the municipality's latest drought intervention plan.

Bhanga told journalists he was happy with the way the municipality was dealing with leaks, which had been identified as the most important intervention.

"We are acutely aware of the poor state of our bulk water infrastructure."

He boasted the loss of water from leaks had dropped from 39% in June to 29% in February. (Cape Town's water leak loss had been reduced to about 15% during its Day Zero crisis.)

READ | Why birds in the Eastern Cape have been dropping dead from the sky

"The municipality is identifying aging infrastructure that needs to be replaced, but this will take time," said the mayor.

He added water consumption was more than 300 million litres per day and needed to be reduced to at most 250 million litres.

"Water levels at the Impofu Dam are already below that which can be extracted, so the municipality has deployed pump barges to access this dead storage capacity," said Bhanga.

At 30 April, the combined available supply of the five dams that provide the municipality had fallen to below 13%. If no rains fall, the municipality's largest dam, Kouga, will run dry by July, with the others following shortly after.

Should the dams run dry, the municipality will have to rely on the Nooitgedacht system.

It is currently working on rerouting this system to supply the western regions of the metro, as well as converting the Grassridge Reservoir into a temporary water treatment facility and digging boreholes.

The Nooitgedacht system draws water from the Free State's Gariep Dam, the country's largest reservoir.

drought
GroundUp took a similar photo in September. Then the Kouga Dam level was over 8%. The combined levels of the four large dams has dropped from 19% to 13% since then.

The western regions of the Eastern Cape are suffering a six-year drought.

The municipality lies in the transition zone between regions that receive summer rains and those that receive winter rainfall. While it does receive some winter rainfall, the region typically gets its highest rainfall in spring.

KwaNobuhle in Kariega and the municipality's western regions such as Seaview and St Albans Correctional Services are projected to be the areas that will be affected first.

We visited KwaNobuhle, Seaview and St Albans informal settlements on 29 April. In KwaNobuhle, outages sometimes start at 08:00 and last until noon, or occur between 18:00 and 19:00. In St Albans, residents must use Jojo tanks. For the past two months, these have only been filled once a week.

drought
The Churchill Dam in Kareedouw.

The chairperson of New Rest Informal Settlement Committee in Seaview, Melumzi Mbombo, said: "Our municipality has to be blamed for this water crisis."

He added their drinking water pipe had been leaking for three years.

"We reported it several times to the office of the ward councillor but nothing has been done about it. Instead, it has become a pond for roaming pigs.

"A second pipe has also been leaking for more than a year. We are about 300 shack dwellers and we share five stand pipes. Four of them are broken and leaking."

Mbombo said last year they were severely affected by the drought.

"For six months between 2019 and 2020, we had no water during the day. The municipality did not even bring the water tankers to us. We were only getting water at night."

Similar views were expressed by other residents we spoke to. Some also blamed the community itself for wasting water by connecting leaking hosepipes to standpipes.

drought
Impofu Dam is so low, water cannot be extracted from it using normal means.

And many residents are short of water already.

For example, Linda Windvogel of St Albans informal settlement said: "For two months, our supply has dropped. The water tanker used to come twice a week but now only comes once, and water is quickly finished and we have to go to St Albans Primary and ask for water.

"Some of us make use of rain water for washing. But the rain has also not fallen for quite a while now."

Interestingly, St Albans Correctional Services said it was prepared for this year's situation.

"Each centre has water tanks on standby and … St Albans is in the process of procuring 57 more water tanks for 5 144 offenders," Sivuyisiwe Matanga, the provincial spokesperson for correctional services, said.

There have also been shortages in Kariega (Uitenhage) since early April.

Resident Nokuthula Bonga said: "Since the beginning of this month, we have had no water during the day… Sometimes, our water cuts off at 8am and comes back in the afternoon or at night."

Fear of running out of water worsens the problem.

"Everybody here at night is busy filling their water drums because last year we had no water for about a week and we had to go to the houses lower down to ask for water," said Bonga.

drought
Loerie Dam is the smallest one supplying Nelson Mandela Bay.

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