One of South Africa’s major cities is facing a water ‘day zero’ at the end of May, business chamber warns

There is a high risk that 40% of Nelson Mandela Bay will have no water by the end of May, as the metropole is fast running out of water and there are no significant rains currently projected for the area, says the local business chamber.

Nelson Mandela Bay Chamber chief executive Denise van Huyssteen said the city’s dams face the possibility of running dry, while many reservoirs will naturally be starved of water due to the high demand. “With demand remaining around 280 megalitres per day (MLD), dry taps are inevitable as both the Kouga and Kromme systems serving the metro will run dry,” she said.

Van Huyssteen added that pump station failures have become increasingly frequent since December 2021. “Due to constraints at local dams, the metro has not been able to balance the system by increasing supply from available sources as it has in the past. This has resulted in frequent mechanical/electrical breakdowns in the water supply.

“Urgent refurbishment work is required at some of the critical pump stations, and procurement efforts must be intensified. It is critical that the dam capacity be stretched to the end of June, to pump Nooitgedacht water to KwaNobuhle and other areas served by Western dams.”

High water consumption 

Water consumption has remained consistently high in the metro over the past few months and has not come down despite numerous requests for residents and businesses to save water.

Daily consumption levels have been tracked at 280MLD but this needs to reduce to 230MLD per day, even after the pump stations are complete – there will be only 230MLD available until such time that rain replenishes local dams, said Van Huyssteen.

She cautioned that the metro’s water issues could also lead to the potential collapse of the sanitation system.

“From the end of May potentially 40% less water will go into the treatment works thus creating high risk of blockages occurring. This in turn may pose various health risks for communities.”

Should no significant rains fall between now and the end of May, the repercussions for businesses and communities would be severe, she said.

“As part of mitigation efforts, we strongly appeal to all businesses and residents to immediately drastically reduce their consumption levels.  Adjacent to this, all potential alternatives should be adopted where ever possible, such as rainwater harvesting, recycling initiatives, water restrictors and other measures.”

Water shedding and sabotage

The Department of Water and Sanitation said the Eastern Cape saw a further decline in water levels this week, with the provincial water storage currently sitting at 66.4%.

“The Algoa Water Supply System with dams supplying the Nelson Mandela Bay area is at a very low of 13.6% this week, a slight decrease from last week’s 13.9%. Kouga Dam which supplies the Nelson Mandela Bay is also very low at 13.5% this week,” it said.

The Herald newspaper reports that the city is now considering ‘water shedding’ to help preserve water levels, while schools in the area have been closing at 11h00 due to the lack of water and sanitation concerns.

While the metropole has faced a long-standing water problem, local councillors have also blamed sabotage for the most recent problems. This follows a number of incidents of vandalism of air valves, including on a main water supply line.

“I want to make this public. Besides that there is vandalism, I want to put it that it’s acts of sabotage, and the Investigating Unit in the Safety and Security department must take action,” Mayco Member for Infrastructure and Engineering John Mitchell told GroundUp.

The municipality has had to shut off water to residents several times to give engineers time to fix vandalism on the pipeline from the Nooitgedagt water treatment works.


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One of South Africa’s major cities is facing a water ‘day zero’ at the end of May, business chamber warns