Eastern Cape’s situation just as desperate, with dams running dry, fewer alternative sources
People are always talking about Cape Town‚ Cape Town‚ Cape Town because the mother city is a big tourist attraction but we are actually worse off.
That is the word from Werner Knoetze, who lives in Kragga Kamma, Port Elizabeth‚ and is acutely aware of how drought has affected daily life in parts of the Eastern Cape.
And it is not pretty. Shaving and long showers are a distant memory and neighbours snitch on each other for wasting water.
“Cape Town has other resources they can tap into‚ we don’t,” he said.
The Nelson Mandela Bay municipality’s combined dam capacity was 25.17% yesterday. Individually‚ the Kouga Dam was at 7.71%‚ Churchill Dam at 18.71%‚ Impofu Dam at 43.47%‚ Loerie Dam at 86.55% and Groendal Dam at 51.80%.
“We have taken the decision to no longer flush for number one,” Knoetze said.
“You can only do it for number two. Running taps unnecessarily for brushing teeth and showering is a no-no. We can’t fill up the swimming pool‚ we can’t wash the car.”
He has tried to stock up on water in case the taps run dry.
He is not afraid to admit that he reports neighbours who flout water restrictions.
“They need to wake up. I report people; that is the end of the line.” In Grahamstown‚ residents are already accustomed to water interruptions.
“We have frequent water outages and, depending on the severity of the repair, it could be several days or several hours,” resident Ron Weissenberg said. ”
Nelson Mandela Bay municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki said restrictions made provision for 60 litres of water a person‚ a day.
“One of the discussions we are having is the possibility of a Day Zero approaching. We will be making an announcement soon‚” he said.
“The option of desalination plants is something we will be looking into but, as we all know, there are serious budget implications.”
Professor Janine Adams, of Nelson Mandela University (NMU)‚ said: “The drought poses a severe threat to the functioning of ecosystems such as estuaries and coastal wetlands.”
This could be seen in the Seekoei estuary near Jeffreys Bay‚ Paradise Beach and Aston Bay. Estuaries and wetlands were naturally resilient systems if not affected by humans, she said.
But urban development and water abstraction had removed their natural ability to recover. Illegal abstraction of fresh water made the situation worse.
“There are too many people for the available water resources. We can have engineering solutions to store water, but often this does not keep up with demand. We need to use alternative sources such as desalination and water from recycling.”
Dr Phumelele Gama, of NMU, said some parts of the Eastern Cape were more vulnerable to drought due to the landscape and local weather conditions.
“Living in a semi-arid region of the country and the level of entitlement as well as taking for granted the supply of water through modern infrastructure have created a society that thinks less of the scarcity of our water supply.
“If you then impose issues such as changing weather patterns [such as climate change] we realise that it cannot be business as usual.
Society’s mindset needs to change‚ and the way municipalities provide water also requires alternative ideas.”
Brent McNamara‚ an Agri Eastern Cape committee member‚ painted a bleak picture for farmers.
“The cash flow for the farmers in the western regions is non-existent,” he said.
“They are borrowing against their commodities‚ wool and mohair.
“They have overextended their overdraft facilities at the commercial banks.
“They have already reduced their livestock numbers drastically – even slaughtering their breeding flocks and herds‚” he said.
“Once the drought has broken‚ farmers will be holding back animals to rebuild their flocks and herds, resulting in fewer animals to market‚ which could make meat prices rise even further.”
Petrus du Preez, who farms in the Patensie area, said: “The irrigation region around Hankey and Patensie is also facing huge problems because of the extremely low level of water in Kouga Dam.
“There is no alternative supply except for a small percentage of borehole water.”
Farmers had no plan for Day Zero, he said.
“In the Langkloof‚ farmers’ dams are empty and their apple trees urgently need water during the blossoming process or they face huge losses‚ poor-quality fruit and obviously lower yields‚” he said.