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POWER CRISIS

Eskom agrees to exempt crucial Nelson Mandela Bay dam from rolling blackouts

Eskom agrees to exempt crucial Nelson Mandela Bay dam from rolling blackouts
After long discussions and the threat of legal action, Eskom has exempted the Churchill Dam near Kareedouw in the Eastern Cape from load shedding. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

After Eskom’s initial refusal to exempt the Churchill Dam from rolling blackouts caused extensive water outages in the water-stressed Nelson Mandela Bay metro, Mayor Retief Odendaal announced on Thursday morning that the metro had managed to get the dam exempted.

For the past few weeks, the water-stressed Nelson Mandela Bay has been hit by another crisis as rolling blackouts prevented water from being pumped from the metro’s fullest dam, the Churchill Dam. 

Water shortages caused outages in more than 40 suburbs and key points, and engineers had to divert water to the St Albans prison as an emergency measure. The metro no longer has enough water to meet demand, and the situation has been worsened by rolling blackouts.  

On Wednesday, Nelson Mandela Bay Mayor Retief Odendaal said he would take Eskom to court if it refused to exempt the Churchill Dam from rolling blackouts.  

“The crisis with load shedding has rubbed salt into the wounds by negatively affecting the water distribution to the city’s reservoirs. As much as the city has worked out a plan to cushion the water intake into the reservoirs and for storage and distribution to the consumers, the severity of load shedding has put a strain on the system,” said Nelson Mandela Bay’s water distribution director, Joseph Tsatsire.

“We are working around the clock to use our existing infrastructure to reroute water to the strained areas for the reservoirs to fill up; however, the high consumption remains a challenge. We continue to interact with Eskom so that we can improve our systems to improve the situation to be much more stable.”  


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Several reservoirs around the metro had fallen below 10% on Wednesday, causing extensive water outages. A new connection had to be made on the KwaNobuhle line to ensure water provision to the St Albans Correctional Facility, the Eastern Cape’s biggest prison.  

The metro sent water trucks to all affected areas, including 42 suburbs and key points.  

On Thursday morning, Odendaal said they had managed to get an agreement in place exempting the Churchill Dam from rolling blackouts. He said he hoped that this would stabilise the supply to some of the reservoirs. 

“The city is currently unable to supply more than 280 to 285 megalitres a day. Unfortunately, demand has been exceeding supply by an estimated 10 megalitres a day. Unless we as residents or consumers reduce our demand, water interruptions will likely continue in certain areas within the foreseeable future.” 

In December, the Amatola Water Board started negotiations with Eskom to exempt the Bhisho water system from rolling blackouts after reservoirs ran so low that water had to be carted to residents.  

A combination of load shedding and load reduction affected water provision so badly in the Karoo over December that towns called in the Gift of the Givers to distribute emergency water supplies. 

As part of legal action filed by a group of South Africans, the Johannesburg High Court will be asked to order that water systems are exempt from rolling blackouts.  

A spokesperson for the Chris Hani District Municipality, which provides water to the central part of the Eastern Cape, said rolling blackouts had caused the municipality considerable financial stress as it had to use generators to keep its water systems functioning.  

“The current load shedding intervals and severity have rendered the system dysfunctional,” the spokesperson said.

“Long hours of load shedding are consuming lots of fuel and the municipality is spending an excessive amount on burning diesel. Additionally, our standby generators are meant to run for a very short space of time when there is an electrical fault which is technical in nature. They are not meant to run every day and for prolonged hours. Their service interval is reduced and fuel consumption escalated to way above normal.  

“The municipality never projected the kind of expense it is now incurring.”  DM/MC

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