New mayor warns of possible restrictions within next week
New mayor Athol Trollip has made an urgent appeal to residents of Nelson Mandela Bay to cut down on water usage as restrictions loom from as early as next week. The city is extracting too much water and not getting enough rain to fill up its catchment dams.
It is compounded by a massive infrastructure backlog, which goes into billions of rands, as well as a water leaks crisis in the metro.
The latest dam levels, captured on Monday, show a combined capacity of about 72%.
The individual figures from the five dams are: Kouga Dam (66.93%), Churchill Dam (61.86%), Impofu Dam (83.72%), Loerie Dam (29.15%) and Groendal Dam (78.78%).
Making his impassioned plea yesterday at his first media briefing since taking over as mayor, Trollip said that “in the next few days, or a week, we will most likely move on to water restrictions”.
The restrictions, referred to as simple, or soft restrictions, mean that watering gardens, plants, golf greens and sports fields with a hose will be banned.
Buckets and watering cans must be used instead.
The restrictions have not yet been implemented as the council still has to give its approval, at a meeting expected to take place next week.
Trollip and acting city boss Johann Mettler urged residents to police themselves by using water sparingly to avoid punitive restrictions, which means residents would be forced to fork out more for water consumed.
The municipality is battling a massive increase in consumption in recent years, reporting losses of more than R130-million between July last year and March due to leaks Trollip said:
“We can’t live without water . . . In the next few days or week we will most likely move to water restrictions. If we run out of water, we face a health crisis. “My appeal today to the department was to manage water better and control water leaks. And we ask the public to support us over the next few days.”
Trollip said the infrastructure department would today tackle its biggest and most consistent leak – in the Churchill Dam pipeline, which feeds a third of the city.
Thousands of litres of water have been gushing out of the pipeline for the past two months at the same spot fixed last year on the west side of the Maitlands River.
“The reason it has taken some time [to fix] . . . is that some of the stop valves are covered by dunes,” Trollip said.
“It has also taken time to find an appropriate contractor who has the skills to bind and join the pipeline. “The water will be shut down [today] and will affect residents of Kini Bay and Blue Horizon Bay. “We ask them to make provisions for drinking water. It should take about two days to complete.”
Mettler said contingency plans would be made for the areas that would be affected by the repairs. Last week, Gamtoos Irrigation Board chief executive Pierre Joubert raised concerns about the metro ’s failure to implement water restrictions, delays in completing the expansion of the Nooitgedacht low-level water scheme and its irresponsible management of water.
He said the municipality was now rerouting water from the Loerie Dam, which was further affecting the financial stability of farmers.
The board provides water to about 7400ha of farmland in the Eastern Cape, which makes up about 250 farms.
More than a quarter (28%) of dam water man aged by the board is allocated to the greater Port Elizabeth and Patensie regions.
“It is time that the municipality get their priorities in order and deploy their resources more effectively, seeing that it has a direct impact on job creation and the economy in the Gamtoos valley,” Joubert said.
Trollip said: “We realise we have to share the water resources with the farming community outside the Bay and surrounding municipalities. “The municipal manager and I have been talking to the department to discuss ways of having a much more coherent system that bills for the actual amount of water we release. “We will visit the low-level water scheme to ensure the augmentation process that we require to supplement our water comes on stream sooner rather than later. “Once the third phase is complete we believe we will have enough water to supply the city.”
The city is expected to complete phase two of the Nooitgedacht expansion in July next year.
The R1.2-billion project will increase the city’s supply capacity from 90 megalitres to 210ML a day.
The third phase is expected to be completed six months later.
Trollip said the department was looking at various, and more permanent, methods to reduce water wastage in the Bay.
More plumbers were being trained and the war on leaks was still operational.
“We are also making sure our billing systems are up to date. “We want water meters outside properties to allow for meter readings to be taken regularly and residents no longer having estimated bills.”
Speaking about water restrictions last week, Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber chief executive Kevin Hustler said: “An estimated 45 billion litres of drinking water is wasted per year in Nelson Mandela Bay, due to rampant and unattended water leaks. “We have been advocating for some time for the reduction of water wastage in the city and earlier this year launched six task teams, one dedicated to water issues,” Hustler said. – Additional reporting by Rochelle de Kock.