Crisis as East Cape drought deepens

Patensie, Hankey could soon run dry, Bay dam levels at record low

Fears over the Eastern Cape’s crippling drought predicament have escalated alarmingly as two towns near Nelson Mandela Bay run out of water fast. This comes as the metro’s major storage dam supply has slumped to its lowest level yet – 26.94% – eclipsing 2010, when it dropped to 31%.

The dire state of water supply in the southern region of the province emerged yesterday with the release of the latest figures and a report on water supply in the Kouga Municipality region.

The two towns most at risk of running dry were named as Patensie and Hankey, which both fall under Kouga and have just about used up their official water-use quotas for the year after just six months.

But while they may be the first to run dry, their fate is directly linked to that of the Bay as the three all use the same water source.

The two towns are entirely dependent on the Kouga Dam, which is also an important component of the Bay’s water supply network.

Of the four major dams supplying the Bay, Kouga is at a critical 9.56% of its capacity.

The Churchill, which is also shared with other regions, is at 20.18%, while the Impofu and the Groendal dams are at 45.25% and 53.95%, respectively.

Kouga mayor Elza van Lingen confirmed serious water shortages at Hankey and Patensie, warning yesterday that water-shedding might be implemented in the coming months. She said the two towns had already almost used up their water quotas for the year ending June 2018.

“The latest readings in December indicated that Hankey only had 9% of its quota left and Patensie 37%,” she said.

Hankey and Patensie both receive their bulk raw water from the Gamtoos Government Water Scheme, which is administered by the Gamtoos Irrigation Board.

The scheme includes the Kouga Dam and downstream canal system. Van Lingen said the Departshould ment of Water and Sanitation had in July slashed the authorised maximum withdrawal for domestic use by Hankey and Patensie by 25% because of drought conditions.

“The allocation for the towns totalled about 880 000 kilolitres a year, but this was decreased to 660 000kl.

“What has made the decrease particularly challenging is that even under normal rainfall conditions, these allocations have been insufficient in the past.”

She said alternative water supply sources were being explored, but the options were limited.

“We will be pumping water from the Klein River to the Hankey Water Treatment Works.

“Water will also be trucked in it be necessary. These measures alone, however, might not be enough.

“We also need residents and business to play their part.

“Please use water extremely sparingly and only when absolutely necessary.”

Van Lingen said boreholes would also be drilled to augment the water supply, but the geology of the area was not conducive to groundwater retention.

“Geophysics testing has already been conducted in the Hankey area and we are awaiting the results so that we can start drilling for water,” she said.

“Testing will then also be done near the Kouga Dam to identify other potential drilling sites.

“These processes, including the installation of the necessary infrastructure support, are only expected to be completed towards mid-2018.”

The Kouga region, which includes Jeffreys Bay, Humansdorp and the Cape St Francis area, was declared a disaster area in May and water restrictions and punitive tariffs have been in place since, with all residents urged to limit their consumption to 60 litres of water a person a day.

Confirming that the Bay’s water crisis had deepened, the municipality said yesterday its available water supply from storage dams was now at an all-time low.

“This is the lowest ever as compared to the 31% that was recorded in 2010,” mayoral committee member for infrastructure and engineering Masixole Zinto said.

“Although the city is putting in all effort to cut water loss and usage, lack of rain has not helped.

“Last year, the mayor declared the city a disaster area in terms of the water situation, stricter measures were introduced and millions have been pumped in to improve water distribution infrastructure and clamp down on water leaks.

“More plumbers have been employed, with private sector resources pulled in to augment.

“The city is also busy with water-saving campaigns across the metro, with schools, businesses and churches an area of focus.”

Some public pools had been closed and boreholes opened.

“Soon, the city will assist in delivering borehole water to businesses and resources will be put into monitoring those who fail to adhere to water restrictions.

“An urgent meeting of infrastructure and engineering will be called before the end of next week to discuss and decide on more restrictions, while other strategies and actions to mitigate the impact of the crisis will be introduced.”

Residents were also urged to limit their daily consumption to 60l a person.

“The coalition government views the current crisis in a very serious light and calls upon the people of Nelson Mandela Bay to come together on this water-saving mission,” Zinto said.


One thought on “Crisis as East Cape drought deepens

  • January 4, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    Has anyone thought about using cloud seeding to help generate rainfall?


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