Maverick Citizen


Nelson Mandela Bay drought ‘could last another six years’, says weather expert

Nelson Mandela Bay drought ‘could last another six years’, says weather expert
A low-level barge has been relocated to the Impofu Dam to allow for more water extraction for the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro. (Photo: Supplied)

With no significant rain predicted for the drought-stricken Nelson Mandela Bay in the next few weeks, weatherman Garth Sampson said the drought could, in theory, continue for another six years.

While there are widely held expectations that the devastating drought in Nelson Mandela Bay will break this year, Garth Sampson from the South African Weather Service said that this is not a given. 

“This is not the longest drought on record [for the region] and could statistically even last until 2027 or 2028. I hope not,” said Sampson, who is known in Gqeberha as the “Weather Guru”.

He said August was the best chance for the region to receive significant rain, with a slight chance for significant rain again in November. 

“Then we will have to wait for next year for any good chance,” Sampson said. The 14-day forecast for the region does not hold any hope of significant rain at this stage and Sampson said their seasonal forecasts until November are for lower than average rainfall.  

The supply dams to the metro remain extremely stressed. A low-level barge has been relocated to the Impofu Dam to allow for more water extraction. The Department of Water and Sanitation has also revised extraction restrictions that limit Nelson Mandela Bay to 70% of the Kromme System (extraction from the Impofu and Churchill dams). 

On Tuesday, the Kouga Dam level was 16.5%, Churchill Dam was 18.8%, the Impofu Dam 10.12%, the Loerie Dam (a small balancing dam) 51.3% and the Groendal Dam (supplying Kariega) 14.9%. 

The community of Chris Hani village in KwaNobuhle township in Kariega has gone without water for six months. When the water tanker arrived, residents jostled with one another in snaking queues for the water. Some got none. 

Since taps ran dry in parts of KwaNobuhle in February, thousands of residents have been relying on water tankers and JoJo tanks as their main source of potable water.  

Day Zero

KwaNobuhle resident Monde Plaatjies (62) said the municipality keeps on saying they are not on Day Zero yet.  

“But, to me, when you are not receiving water consistently for so many months you are on Day Zero. The issue of water is affecting our health because this community consists of old, frail people who need water to take medication. It seems that our municipality has forgotten that water is life. 

“Under these conditions, we can’t even use our toilets, because we can’t use the little water we have to flush the toilet. It is a daily struggle to get water in Chris Hani as water tankers do as they please. We wait and wait for it to pitch to fill our water buckets … sometimes that’s in vain. The municipality’s water distribution system is an absolute failure,” he said. 

Nosipho Stofile (60), who lives with his three grandchildren, said they used to get water between 2am and 5am before it was cut completely in February.  

“We’re frustrated with this situation as we ask nearby houses for water. We want the municipality to intervene and make sure that water tankers visit our areas regularly as there is a lot of talk about them, but they are no longer visiting us daily. 

“My body is tired of carrying a 20-litre bucket of water from the nearest running tap or JoJo tank. Sometimes the water tanker would be hijacked [diverted] by residents before it reaches us. Without water, we are unable to do essential tasks such as cooking or bathing and water to drink.  

“The community is frustrated and they need water,” Stofile said. 

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The local Water Crisis Committee said there was discrimination against the community of KwaNobuhle.  

“In Chris Hani, over 5,000 households are dependent on one half-filled JoJo tank. The water tanker comes only once a day and the residents are never sure when the tanker might arrive. In the last three months, this community received water only once a week. A day in Chris Hani starts at 6am queuing for water as residents have become desperate for water,” said Siyabulela Mama from the Water Crisis Committee.

“That is why we have invited the Department [of Water and Sanitation] and the municipality to the community meeting, but they never showed up… people who don’t live here have no idea what it’s like to wake up in the morning and wait in long queues. It has been ongoing for six months, with no formal communication from the municipality about the actual time the water tankers will come.

“In some parts of Kariega, it is business as usual, while it is Day Zero in Chris Hani. The municipality is discriminating against this community by not providing them with running water while other areas of the city receive the service of communal taps. Why is it that Kariega is facing the dire consequences of this water crisis? Why is this crisis divided in terms of class?

“There are four houses in this area that are getting water and no one can explain how these houses got water. For the past six months, those with water supply have to carry the astronomical costs of the water bills as they share their supply with the whole community. We are calling on the municipality to stop billing those affected households because they are helping the community in this time of crisis,” Mama said.

KwaNobuhle pump station

Nelson Mandela Bay’s water and sanitation boss, Barry Martin, said the municipality had recently commissioned the KwaNobuhle pump station, which took a year to construct. 

“We are now able to transfer more water from Nooitgedacht through to the western side where the dams levels are so low. We are running the whole plant of Nooitgedacht at about 180 megalitres per day because we are getting more water in Phase Three. 

“We are doing some maintenance work on phases one and two. Once we are done we will be able to push the plant up to the limit of 210 megalitres per day and with that type of water in the system we will be able to transfer more water to the western side and pump it via the Chelsea reservoir through KwaNobuhle pump station into KwaNobuhle.  

“People need to conserve water at all times because the amount of water we can transfer from east to west is entirely dependent on how the city saves water. That will allow us the little that we have to share with all our citizens throughout the metro,” he said.  

Luvuyo Bangazi, the spokesperson for the Joint Operations Committee, which is managing the metro’s water crisis, said the first borehole that will augment the water supply for the distressed western side of the metro was in the testing phase, but not yet complete. Bangazi said some equipment had been “stuck in shipping”. 

The metro, he said, was currently using 265 megalitres of water a day, down from 300 megalitres. 

“We commend all water users for diligently responding to the call to reduce consumption, but we are far from 230 megalitres per day. We continue to call on everyone to urgently reduce consumption to 50 litres per day per person,” he said. 

The 230 megalitres a day is what the city will have available to distribute to residents when the dams fail. It comes from the Nooitgedacht Water Scheme that brings water to Nelson Mandela Bay from the Gariep Dam. 

Bangazi said the city was still preparing for Day Zero and had now connected 10 water collection points.  

“These will be commissioned when they are needed to provide secure, clean supply. Why can’t people access them now? Because they are not necessary as supply in those areas is in place.”  DM/MC


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Barrie Lewis says:

    We can learn from the Dutch, the world’s experts on water. There’s a relatively simple solution. BUILD UNDERGROUND RESERVOIRS to harvest and store rainwater.

    There are plenty of strong unemployed men; four can dig the hole in just three days.

    And I’m sure plenty of semi-skilled people who can mix concrete and lay bricks. 8 persons can complete the reservoir in just two weeks.

    Government should provide the cement, stone and bricks or blocks; and a corrugated iron roof. It’s not rocket science.

    5m in diameter and 2m deep should be ample. When it does rain it’s amazing just how much water can be captured by even a small roof with gutters. We drink it without reservation, pristine, soft and very cold, but officially there are some risks of contamination.

    Four small homes could build one central reservoir. More affluent families should all have their own.

    We have used municipal water for only two months in ten years, after learning how it’s done during our time in Holland.

    We also learned one of their favourite sayings: “Those who will not hear, must feel.”

    Learn how it’s done from Bernard-Preston’s website.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    I know this is not a popular message, but we all have to take note that SA is a relatively dry country. We have to use water more considerately. Yet our water is very inexpensive. The answer lies in making water more expensive and then to ring-fence that income to build more infrastructure (dams, canals, boreholes, etc). And don’t come to me with the idea that it is the poor townships that get water for free that are wasting the water. They can only use a limited amount of water for free and they are VERY conscious of it. The real wastage of water takes place in the affluent towns and the businesses, and the municipality (for instance those 3000 water leaks that was done nothing about until the national department of water was forced to interfere a month or two ago). So making the water more expensive will make everyone more aware. One of my family lived in England for 11 years and when he came back to SA, he said that they pay 10 times more for services such as water. That in a country that is not known for having a scarcity of water – they normally have abundant rain as far as I know.

  • Barrie Lewis says:

    There’s a simple solution. Government should start building underground reservoirs adjacent to homes that have gutters. Unemployment is high; 4 unskilled strong men could dig the hole in 3 days. Semiskilled labourers can throw the slab, do the brickwork, plaster and put on a roof. Complete in two weeks.
    Sarah Baartman coastal area gets 600mm of rain per year. On a 100m2 roof that amounts to 60m3 of water; a huge amount. Over 1 cube per week.
    The Basic Water Needs per person is generally accepted at 50 litres per day or 350 litres per week.
    This would supply 3 persons with all their needs for the whole year.
    Is it not time for the people of NBM to forget about the Nooitgedacht scheme, it’s not going to fulfil its promise probably ever. We need to become self-reliant, boer zal een plan maak, and look to the heavens for the plentiful rain that is falling, and just start harvesting and storing it.
    This is not just theory. We have done this for 10 years since returning from the Netherlands and seeing how the Dutch do it.
    Estelle and Luvuyo, get on a plane, come to Hilton in KZN and see how it works. Simple. The water is there. We just it run into the ground, and then grumble. Make a plan.

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