22: COUNTDOWN TO CATASTROPHE
Weekend rains weren’t enough to stave off Day Zero in Nelson Mandela Bay in just three weeks
Welcome rain fell in the catchment areas for Nelson Mandela Bay’s dams at the end of last week and over the weekend, but this did little to improve the metro’s critical water situation.
While recent rainfall figures indicate that residents of the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality might have gained a little grace in the countdown to the failure of its supply dams, the metro said on Monday there were only 22 days before taps ran dry.
It is estimated that 107 suburbs, townships and areas in the metro will run out of water within three weeks, when access to the dams is lost. These include some of the metro’s most densely populated areas.
Municipal officials are counting on the public to restrict water use to 50 litres per person per day to delay the impending disaster so that access to some water from the dams can be retained.
Two pump stations will increase capacity, but these will be completed only in September, as will several borehole projects.
The metro is in its seventh year of a devastating drought and in January recorded its driest month yet. The area needs between 50mm and 100mm of rainfall in a short time to move out of danger.
In three weeks, the Churchill Dam is predicted to run dry, followed by the Impofu Dam a few days later. This will leave the city mostly reliant on the Nooitgedacht scheme, a system with no reserves and one that is affected by load shedding.
The Gariep Dam, on the border of the Free State and the Eastern Cape, is presently overflowing, but water supply from here will be limited.
Almost 40% of the metro will soon be without water
The dams supplying this mostly urban area of 1.5 million people have only about 12.4% of usable water left. Almost 40% of the metro will soon be without water or will have limited water.
While the metro is allowed to take water from the Loerie Dam, which is fed by the Kouga Dam, it has already exceeded its annual quota.
Garth Sampson from the SA Weather Service said the recent rain “might extend Day Zero by a week or so”. He said no significant rain was predicted for the area in the next five days.
According to official rainfall figures, a total of 40mm was measured at Joubertina, 26mm at Kareedouw, 37mm at Kouga Dam and 24mm at Patensie after the recent showers.
The Department of Water and Sanitation did not issue figures for dam levels on Monday.
The Gamtoos Irrigation Board, which manages the water in the Kouga and Loerie dams, said Kouga was at 12.7% capacity on Monday, the Churchill Dam was at 12.3% (lower than last week’s 13.3%) and the Impofu Dam stood at 10.5%.
According to the metro’s official water dashboard, the Churchill Dam had 22 days of water left on Monday. The Impofu Dam had 30 days and the Kouga/Loerie system had 77 days to go.
According to the municipality, 1,623 water leaks were fixed last week and the council is behind on 3,257 complaints of leaks. DM/MC