Maverick Citizen


Water throttling discussed for Nelson Mandela Bay as drought crisis worsens

Water throttling discussed for Nelson Mandela Bay as drought crisis worsens
Residents of Nelson Mandela Bay hold a service to pray for rain on 30 January 2023. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

As the devastating drought continues in Nelson Mandela Bay, with a dismal prediction for the winter rain season, mayor Retief Odendaal said they might have to resort to water throttling as demand continues to outstrip supply.

Figures released on Monday showed that the Impofu Dam, where the Nelson Mandela Bay metro formerly obtained most of its water, now has no usable water left. 

The Churchill Dam still has 5,516 megalitres available, the smaller Loerie Dam has 868ML and the Groendal Dam outside Kariega has 1,078ML. The largest dam in the region, Kouga, is only 12.2% full and has 11,231ML available. The metro is only allowed to extract 40ML from this dam.

On Tuesday morning (21 February) the metro’s mayor, Retief Odendaal, said that due to demand exceeding supply on the Kromme line, from the Churchill Dam, the Emerald Hill reservoir had been depleted. 

He explained that the metro had to reduce the amount of water it was extracting from the dams in line with restrictions imposed by the Department of Water and Sanitation.

“Unfortunately there is currently not enough water to meet the demand and  certain communities will experience water interruptions. We are now going to divert water from other reservoirs to this line,” he said.

An emotional resident of Nelson Mandela Bay prays for rain. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

If access to the dams are lost, about a third of the metro will be without water. Projects to increase the available water, such as boreholes, have been completed and are being brought online. The metro also receives water from the Nooitgedacht Water Scheme, bringing it in from the Gariep Dam. 

Read in Daily Maverick:Residents in drought-hit Nelson Mandela Bay warned — save water now or mayor will come knocking

While this dam is full, Odendaal said they are unable to bring more water to Nelson Mandela Bay because of the size of the pipeline and restrictions on how much they are able to clean at the Nooitgedacht Water Works. 

He said that to avoid extended water outages, every household and business is asked to reduce consumption immediately. 

Odendaal has previously raised the concern that if large parts of the city are left without water this will have dire consequences for the already collapsing sewage system.

“We are currently able to still produce around 280ML a day. The Department of Water and Sanitation wants us to reduce our consumption to no more than 230ML a day. Last week we averaged consumption of at least 300ML a day, which would have led to depleted dams by July 2023,” he explained. 

Odendaal implored residents to stick to the 50 litres per person daily.

He said they were discussing water throttling to bring down consumption.

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“It is alarming. We are in a bad spot,” Rienette Colesky, CEO of the Gamtoos Irrigation Board, said. 

She said the metro still extracts 40ML a day from the Kouga Dam, which is a bit below their allowable quota. “There has been really strong leadership from Odendaal. Everyone is very focused on preserving the Kouga Dam,” she added. “All users have been compliant.”

A long-term weather forecast shared by Garth Sampson from the South African Weather Service indicates that the region will again receive lower-than-normal rainfall this winter as it enters the eighth year of a severe drought. 

Business offers help

Earlier in February, the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber signed a memorandum of understanding with the metro to enable it to help with the water situation, among other crises in the city.

Chamber chief executive Denise van Huyssteen said that “instead of criticising from the sidelines, business wants to contribute practically, by rolling up our sleeves… [I]t is vital that we all collaborate to change the current trajectory.  This starts with taking positive actions which can make a difference.”  

Read in Daily Maverick:Dam in Nelson Mandela Bay is at its lowest level yet  

The memorandum is an overarching agreement that enables the chamber and its more than 700 member companies to work with the municipality to rebuild an enabling environment for business. The agreement makes the expertise and resources of the business community available to the municipality, on a voluntary basis.

Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Retief Odendaal. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

Previously, initiatives driven by the chamber to help the municipality to address urgent challenges, including the Adopt-a-Leak and Adopt-a-Substation programmes, each required a separate agreement to be approved by council before they could be rolled out.

In terms of the memorandum businesses are offering consulting services and advice from their engineers and experts.

In some cases, businesses may provide their resources and support to the municipality, such as with the Adopt-a-Leak initiative that repaired leaks in more than 4,000 low-income households in 2022, resulting in a daily saving of 1.6 million litres of clean water. DM/MC


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