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