Maverick Citizen


Boil-before-drinking warning issued for Nelson Mandela Bay as metro’s water crisis deepens

Boil-before-drinking warning issued for Nelson Mandela Bay as metro’s water crisis deepens
Executive Mayor Retief Odendaal drinking bottled water during a visit to the metro's new borehole plant. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

Low dam levels have already caused widespread water outages and have forced the metro to introduce borehole water into the municipal reticulation system.

A boil-before-drinking notice was issued early on Tuesday morning by the Nelson Mandela Bay metro as the metro, faced with the most desperate water crisis to date, started pumping borehole water into the reticulation system. 

The metro’s director of water distribution Joseph Tsatsire said the borehole water was safe but did not comply with the chemical requirements for drinking water standards. That is why a boil-before-drinking notice has been issued.

“With the addition of unblended ground water into our reticulation system, low dam levels, and fluctuating reservoir levels, the water quality is constantly changing and can not be 100% guaranteed,” the notice reads.

Joseph Tsatsire

The metro’s director of water distribution Joseph Tsatsire. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

“Through a system of blending water from different sources, a blending ratio is used to meet [water quality standards]. Due to the decline of the water supply sources … the blending ratio is not being met, and therefore, the water needs to be boiled as a precautionary act,” the notice continued.

The metro said on Monday that the Churchill Dam, the remaining large dam from where the metro is extracting water, has also become vulnerable and unstable.

The metro can also extract a small amount of water from the Kouga Dam. 

The largest water source for the metro, the Impofu Dam, now has no usable water left.

The metro receives the bulk of its water from the Nooitgedacht Water Scheme, which brings water from the Orange River. This water source, however, cannot be distributed everywhere in the metro yet.

On Monday, as large parts of the city already struggled with dry taps, 20 water trucks were delivered to Nelson Mandela Bay to help with the distribution of emergency water.


This graphic produced by the metro shows which areas are now experiencing severe water risk (Graphic: Supplied)

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The trucks were procured on instructions of Water and Sanitation Minister, Senzo Mchunu, to boost the metro’s fleet of 23 water trucks.

Nelson Mandela Bay deputy mayor, Khusta Jack who received the trucks on behalf of the municipality, said the drought has now reached crisis levels.

“These tankers are a visible reminder of the dire situation in which we find ourselves. They will also serve as a reassuring sight to our communities that the government is committed and working together to provide them with sustainable water supply,” Jack said.

Eastern Cape Head of the Department of Water and Sanitation, Portia Makhanya, said the City’s high-water consumption needed to decrease immediately “to save the little water we have”.

“Having observed the situation regarding water consumption in the Metro versus the current storage levels, we have estimated that we will hit Day Zero in the next few months in certain areas supplied by the local sources. There is an urgent need to use this water constructively by conserving water use and the demand to protect the system from total collapse,” Makhanya said.

NMBM Executive Mayor Retief Odendaal said the change of quality in the water relates to chemical parameters and was not bacteriological.

In February 2022, when the last boil-before-drinking notice was issued, a failure at the Nooitgedacht Water Plant caused water not to comply with bacteriological standards. High levels of E. coli bacteria were detected in municipal water. This caused widespread but mild illness and a few severe cases, especially in children.

Boil-before-drinking warning

A few of the new water trucks procured for the metro on 27 February 2023. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

“We are not saying there are bacteria in our water and, therefore, it is unsafe to drink. We are saying the water may not taste as it normally does, and so as a precautionary measure, our residents must just boil the water before consuming it,” Odendaal said.

The new set of recommendations also includes:

  • Drink only bottled water and only cook using bottled water.
  •  If bottled water is not available, bring water to a full rolling boil for one minute. After boiling, allow the water to cool before use.
  • Boil tap water even if it is filtered.
  • Do not use water from any appliance connected to your water line, such as ice and water from a refrigerator.
  • Breastfeeding is the best infant feeding option. If you formula feed your child, provide ready-to-use formula, if possible.
  •  In many cases, you can use tap water and soap to wash your hands during a boil water advisory.

The metro is currently in the eighth year of a severe drought. Historically one drought in the region has lasted 12 years, but droughts mostly come and go in a seven-year cycle.

A little rain fell in Nelson Mandela Bay overnight on Monday, and some rain has been predicted for the weekend. Garth Sampson from the SA Weather Service, however, previously said that the rainfall prospects for winter, which is the rainy season for this area, do not look positive. DM/MC


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