Nelson Mandela Bay’s new mayor has naturally been quick to make his presence felt as he ushers in a new era of leadership in City Hall corridors.
But prioritising and casting sharp attention on the metro’s precarious water predicament should not be seen by critics as gaining quick political capital.
We are indeed in dire straits when it comes to this most pressing of issues which affects every individual and has huge ramifications for the regional economy, impacting as it does on farmers, business and industry.
For too long the previous administration ignored or took woefully little action to avert the crisis – growing by the day – in a metro whose consumption is way too high while there simply has not been enough rain to fill its catchment dams and keep up with excessive demand.
Add to this losses of more than R130-million in less than a year because of leaks and a massive infrastructure backlog running into billions, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Equally concerning is the financial setbacks for farmers that the rerouting of water to the Bay from the Loerie Dam is having because of the drain the metro is putting on these precious resources.
While it remains to be seen whether metro residents immediately heed Athol Trollip’s appeal to police themselves when it come to water usage and make household cutbacks, it seems inevitable that formal restrictions – albeit not too drastic or “soft” controls – will be introduced.
We believe this is vital given the point we have reached. If these are effective then harsher restrictions, which would impact heavily on the poor, could be avoided.
What is encouraging is that one of the biggest emergencies will be tackled immediately. The fresh leak at a trouble spot in the previously repaired Churchill Dam pipeline, which feeds a third of the metro and where thousands of litres have been lost in the past two months alone, is now being attended to by a contractor with the skills finally to do the job properly.
It is high time water management gets the shake-up and wake-up it clearly so desperately requires, and all eyes will be on Trollip to see if his string of initiatives to reduce water wastage are indeed watertight.