Water tariff hike looms

BONE DRY: Alta Barkhuizen stands in the dry Churchill Dam which has hit a crisis level of just 19%

Consumers likely to pay considerably more from next week as crisis grows

The next phase of punitive water tariffs – Part C – will be implemented next week if the dam levels, which are sitting at a combined 43%, drop to 40% by then, as is expected. The announcement by Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip – who described the water situation as a crisis yesterday – has ended months of speculation.

This would mean that people would pay more for their water regardless of how much they used.

Effectively, users will pay R2.94 more per kilolitre on an average usage of up to 0.5kl a day, a R14.89/kl increase for the next 0.3kl, and up to R26.51/kl for the next 0.8kl per day.

Commercial and industrial tariffs will be increased by one cent, from R16.54 to R16.55.

Trollip said that while the overall dam levels were at 43.1%, the last 10% of the dams was deemed unusable, meaning the metro had just 33% potable water – equating to about 12 months of usable water.

“This is a final appeal to the [people of the] metro to save water because it [Part C] is coming – and it’s a considerable jump,” he said.

Trollip, who was speaking at the City Hall, called on his water wizards – mayoral committee member for infrastructure and engineering Annette Lovemore, water treatment works and dams director Joseph Tsatsire, water and sanitation director Barry Martin and infrastructure and engineering head Walter Shaidi – to brief the media on the pending water tariffs.

The metro is in the process of procuring water flow restricting devices, which will be installed at schools and the homes of high water users in the Bay by next month.

Martin said the device would be preprogrammed to stop water supply in the affected households if the daily consumption exceeded an average daily usage determined by dividing 40kl a month by the number of days in the month – about 1.3kl a day.

The device would reinstate water flow at midnight. At schools, it would be activated to cut the water supply during holidays.

DROPPING DAILY: Churchill Dam’s drastically receded water level is clearly evident

In addition, 14 municipal peace officers are visiting high water users (more than 40kl a month) and issuing a notice to reduce water consumption within two weeks or face a fine or the risk of having one of the water restricting devices installed in their homes.

While Phase Two of the Nooitgedacht Coega Water Treatment Works was still on schedule to be completed by the end of July, supplying an additional 50Ml a day, it would not improve the Bay’s situation, Trollip said.

According to the metro’s calculations, the Churchill Dam – which supplies a third of the metro’s water – only has about 20 days of water remaining.

As a result, despite the additional water supply from Nooitgedacht, the metro still has to achieve its stipulated daily average usage of 239Ml to manage its remaining water supply.

The average usage is currently at 293Ml a day.

Concerning boreholes, Martin said they had to be registered with the municipal infrastructure and engineering directorate by July.

“We need to manage our underground water source because if we run out of water we will have to resort to those sources.

“What people don’t realise is that if we are drilling boreholes anywhere and everywhere, it becomes a real possibility that the seawater could infiltrate that water source and result in the water becoming unusable,” he said.

In an effort to make non-potable water more accessible to residents and business in the Bay, the metro is making available free untreated ground water at Coega Kop, as well as recycled effluent from the Cape Recife and Fishwater Flats treatment works.

Despite recently recruiting seven plumbers, three superintendents and six installation inspectors, the municipality is still 19 plumbers short of its requirement.

“We have tried our utmost to recruit additional plumbers, but to work on municipal pipes you need to have certain qualifications,” Trollip said.

“So we are also competing with business for these [scarce] specialised plumbers.”

Lovemore said that adding to the metro’s water woes was the national Department of Water and Sanitation’s threat to raise the water-saving threshold from the initial 15% – which the metro had yet to achieve – to 20%.

“We will obviously lobby against the 20%, because what is being proposed is that the department will have to throttle our water supply,” she said.

“This means they will turn it on and off daily according to our usage.

“With our ailing infrastructure, it is a major concern. Obviously, turning the water supply on and off will place additional strain on the infrastructure and possibly result in more leaks, repairs and water wastage.”

The current combined dam levels of 43.1% (121 378Ml) comprise the Kouga Dam at 27.11% (34 137Ml), Churchill Dam at 19.06% (6 715Ml), Impofu Dam at 68.55% (72 495Ml), Loerie Dam at 41.67% (1 261Ml) and Groendal Dam at 58.16% (6 770Ml).

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