The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality set the wheels in motion yesterday to have the metro declared a water disaster area as an emergency repair team continued in a race against time to repair the collapsed Kirkwood canal.
With dam levels continuing to drop, the volume in the Scheepersvlakte Dam east of Kirkwood, which channels water through the Nooitgedacht Treatment Works to the northern and eastern parts of the metro, has fallen perilously low.
Municipal water and sanitation director Barry Martin told a media conference at City Hall that his 15-man team, with excellent support from the Department of Water and Sanitation, was working round the clock and that repairs were progressing well.
“But with Scheepersvlakte, the next 48 hours will be critical because as the dam level drops our ability to extract sufficient water diminishes,” he said.
“To avert an absolute water crisis, the NMBM is deploying 2 500l water tanks at strategic places and filling them up with water for the potentially affected communities to access.”
At the Kirkwood site where a 100m-long section of the canal collapsed under a landslide on Wednesday last week, the repair team was excavating and shaping the section, Martin said.
Once this was completed, the repaired section would be relined and tested before water, which feeds down from the Orange River’s Gariep Dam, could be released through it again to fill up the Scheepersvlakte Dam.
Mayor Athol Trollip said with the combined level of the metro’s dams having fallen to 38.5% and Part C tariffs for residents already in place, the metro had been compelled to take another decisive step.
“I have declared a water disaster,” he said.
“It’s not a good situation, but once it is promulgated and gazetted we can expect relief funding which will allow us to take extraordinary steps we would not otherwise have been able to take.”
Mayoral committee member Annette Lovemore said the funds, when they became available, would allow the metro to consider major investment alternatives as a buffer against future or continuing water crises like a desalination plant, for example.
Lovemore said it was hoped the declaration would be gazetted within a week.
Once gazetted, the declaration also allows for the fasttracking of services procurement to tackle a water supply emergency like the collapse of the canal.
Hailing metro water users, Trollip said water consumption had declined steadily over the last 10 months from 307.91ML a day to 284ML a day.
“But we have to drop below 230ML a day to reach the [department’s] annual restriction target,” he said.
In steps aimed at reducing consumption of potable municipal water, non-potable water from the Coega Kob borehole is being made available at the Motherwell Cemetery, while water for construction purposes can be collected for free from the Fishwater Flats treatment works.