Bay drought relief funding bombshell

Rochelle de Kock
RELIEF turned to dismay as news came yesterday that Nelson Mandela Bay will receive less than a third of the R1.6-billion in drought-relief funding it desperately needs from the national Treasury.
Massive projects such as the proposed desalination plant and expansion of the Nooitgedacht scheme would have gone a long way to solving the metro‘s water woes for the time being, but now councillors will be left the unenviable task of deciding which projects will go ahead, and which will get the chop.
Infrastructure and engineering committee executive director Ali Said said at a committee meeting yesterday there had been an “indication” from the Treasury that the municipality would receive R450-million.
“We will use that to implement a project to bring more water to the metro. What that project will be will be decided by the council.
“We‘ll have to scale down and cut certain elements of the project to meet the requirements for drought relief,” he said.
 DA councillor Elizabeth Trent said “we are in a mess” if the full amount in drought relief funding was not received.
 The municipality‘s application was submitted in May last year, after the Bay was declared a disaster area.
The infrastructure and engineering agenda tabled before the portfolio committee yesterday revealed the municipality‘s water augmentation plan was in place, but needed to be accelerated to produce “significant results before the shortage becomes catastrophic”.
“It is imperative for the metro to receive emergency funds,” the infrastructure and engineering directorate said.
“The Nooitgedacht scheme, the proposed desalination plant and groundwater sources must be implemented before the water sources are depleted.”
The R1.6-billion was needed to boost the city‘s fast-dwindling water supply, which will be depleted by August.
The Nooitgedacht Low Level Scheme refers to the extension of the Nooitgedagt Water Treatment Works, which treats Gariep Dam water that comes via the Orange-Fish River Tunnel and a series of connected rivers to the Sundays River irrigation scheme.
From here it is piped, via the treatment works, to areas such as Bluewater Bay. It is regarded as a “crucial” project.
 Said said certain elements of the Nooitgedacht project would be implemented with the R450- million.
The R1.6-billion request sent to the Treasury was meant to be allocated as follows:
– Desalination of sea water – R450-million;
– Groundwater scheme – R158.3-million;
– Drought campaign to reduce water consumption – R28-million;
– Maximum supply from Nooitgedaght scheme – R62- million;
– Water conservation – R107.5-million;
– Fast-track Nooitgedaght Low Level Scheme – R708-million; and
– Imfofu additional low-level storage – R57-million.
The Bay‘s drought-relief funding was aimed at expanding the city‘s Nooitgedacht water treatment works near Addo to enable it to pump and treat more water from the Sundays River, which comes from the Gariep Dam, which will take a minimum of 16 months to complete; building a desalination plant at Swartkops, which would take 10 months to finish; and drilling boreholes to access more water from the Uitenhage Springs, which could take six months.
While the boreholes and desalination plant will add a marginal amount of water, expanding the Nooitgedacht treatment works would satisfy the Bay‘s water needs until at least 2020.
An independent water consultant, David Raymer from Uhambiso Consultants, said the municipality must think carefully about how it allocated the funds from the Treasury.
“They will have to utilise the funds on the lower level schemes, but with the bit of rain we‘ve received recently, it will push the deadline further away,” Raymer said.

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