One of South Africa’s biggest cities faces a water ‘day zero’ this month

The opposition Democratic Alliance has warned that two of Nelson Mandela Bay’s main supply dams, the Churchill and Impofu, are set to be depleted by the end of May, leaving large parts of the metro with no reticulated water.

“Although we must avoid large scale panic in these areas, affected residents and businesses have a right to know what contingency measures have been put in place to provide them with potable water,” said the party’s spokesperson for infrastructure and engineering, Dries van der Westhuizen.

“We may not be in government, but that will not stop us working day and night in the interests of the residents in this looming crisis. We believe the only way of preventing the imminent disaster is to drastically reduce water demand from 280 megalitres a day to 230 megalitres a day.

“If we are able to reach this target, we should theoretically be able to stretch our remaining water supplies until the end of October 2022.”

Other proposals put forward by the party include:

  • Leak repairs.
  • Increase the number of meter readers.
  • Appoint a water law squad.
  • Close schools during periods of no activity.
  • Increase the installation of throttling devices.
  • The establishment of a high consumer call centre.
  • Increase the percentage of water to be recycled at car washes to 80%.

Nelson Mandela Bay Chamber chief executive Denise van Huyssteen has previously warned that the city’s dams face the possibility of running dry by the end of May, 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 in April.

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.”

The DA said it is vital that residents, the business sector, hospitals, schools, the airport, and more are informed of which areas will be affected and when to start making alternative and emergency plans. It added that officials must explain the impact on our reticulation system at various stages of the drought.

The city is scheduled to hold a public information briefing on the crisis on Thursday (5 May).

Read: Government to issue ‘boil water notices’ as South Africa’s tap water quality tanks

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One of South Africa’s biggest cities faces a water ‘day zero’ this month