PE guesthouses prepared to deal with water restrictions

Experience with water restrictions in the past has taught Port Elizabeth guesthouse owners how to conserve water and they expect no additional pressure on their profit margins this time around.

Owners are expected to welcome guests from all over the world this season despite the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality tightening the tap on the metro’s water prices.

But while some guesthouses will be keeping a close eye on their profit margins as their rooms fill up over the summer season, others have taken precautions to ensure guests still have a great holiday despite the city’s dwindling water supply.

Nelson Mandela Bay economic development, tourism and agriculture committee chairman Andrew Whitfield said the biggest concern was having no water as the city expected an influx of tourists, both international and domestic.

Luckily, he said, water restrictions had been implemented at the right time, and those providing accommodation to visitors had been able to put measures in place.

“I have spoken to a number of guesthouse owners around the city, and over recent years many of them have retrofitted their businesses to save water and electricity,” he said.

“They know their use fluctuates as the seasons change, and they are prepared for the situation.”

Whitfield said a number of guesthouses had installed grey water systems and rainwater storage tanks that took pressure off the municipal water supply.

This limited the likelihood of them exceeding restrictions and incurring penalties.

The owner of Bayside and Beach Walk guesthouses in Summerstrand, Clifford Hanks, said his pools were filled with rainwater and his garden was watered by the outflow from his washing machines.

“We use fresh water when it is available, but as soon as water restrictions come into play we have all the necessary measures in place. At this point, the water restrictions have virtually zero effect on our business,” he said.

“If the city starts implementing stricter restrictions, like turning off water certain hours of the day, or cutting supply to areas on a schedule, then I will start worrying. But for now, we are still fine.”

King George’s Guest House owner Danielle Chantler said they could not increase their rates to make up for water penalties.

But she believed the water-saving measures they had in place would be enough to avoid any fines.

“We catch our rainwater in tanks, and we have heated pipes so our taps don’t run for ages until the water is hot, and that saves quite a bit,” Chantler said.

Their concern, however, went beyond the holiday season because the majority of their guests were visiting businessmen.

“If the drought persists and the restrictions become stricter we may start to feel the pressure.”

Admiralty Beach House manager Marelize Bartlett said they notified guests of restrictions and asked that they used water sparingly.

But they would not impose limits on paying guests.

“If I checked into a place and there was a notice telling me to cut my shower short I would feel offended. The best we can do is appeal to our guests to save water, and most of the time they are very understanding.”

She said they frequently had visitors from abroad who spent most of their time at the beach or touring the surrounding area, so their water usage was usually minimal anyway.

Whitfield said the declining dam levels were a great concern, not only for tourism but for all enterprises and residents of the metro.

But he said recent and predicted rainfall could help alleviate the pressure on the water supply.

“As it stands, we do not foresee any major disruptions from a tourism point of view,” he said.

The municipality was warned by Eastern Cape water and sanitation head Portia Makhanya this week that unless the metro drastically reduced its water usage, forced water cuts would be implemented and legal action could be taken.

Municipal spokesman Kupido Baron said although recent rains in the city were welcome, not much had fallen in the dam catchment areas.

Dam levels were at 64% on Thursday, he said.

“It is imperative that water use be cut back in all activities,” he warned.

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