Nelson Mandela Bay dam levels dropping faster due to Covid-19

DIRE SITUATION: The Impofu Dam is at a low 16.55%
DIRE SITUATION: The Impofu Dam is at a low 16.55%
Image: fredlin adriaan

As the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases increase in Nelson Mandela Bay, the dam levels continue to decrease — sitting at a combined level of 23.77% on Monday.

Three days before the forced lockdown on March 26, the combined level of the city’s four major storage dams were 25.05%.

Infrastructure and engineering political head Andile Lungisa said the city was facing two disasters, with the consequences of both dire for the city.

“The drought and Covid-19 will be devastating on different fronts,” he said.

Infrastructure executive director Walter Shaidi proposed at a council meeting in February that the city hire seven contractors to tackle the city’s more than 10,000 reported leaks.

However, Lungisa said the lockdown had stymied this plan as the contractors were not considered part of the municipality’s essential services.

“Covid-19 has hampered our efforts to fix leaks and stop water wastage. We can’t deploy people all over the city. Our drought intervention is at a minimum right now,” he said.

Lungisa said municipal emergency workers were only allowed to fix major pipes or damaged water channels.

“We are losing water due to leaks during the lockdown. That is a reality we face.”

Lungisa said more water was also being consumed due to hand washing and people drinking from taps at home.

“But people must not stop washing their hands,” he said.

“On top of that, most businesses have portable water dispensers. But people will be drinking water from the taps at home. There has been a significant increase in usage since the lockdown,” he said.

In a separate report to the infrastructure and engineering portfolio committee, Shaidi recommended that Coega Development Corporation (CDC) be considered as an implementing agent for a desalination plant.

A desalination plant was one of the infrastructure projects National Treasury gave the green light to worth a combined R1.4bn.

A capability statement compiled by the CDC project manager, Keith du Plessis, said the state-owned enterprise and the metro were concluding an agreement for the CDC to become the implementer for the desalination plant.

Lungisa said: “We must give Coega the go-ahead for the desalination plant. We really have no other option.

“We are quickly running out of water and we don’t have a better plan for a long-term solution. We are going to winter and the situation will be worse.”

Lungisa said he hoped the desalination plant would be up and running by December.

“It is simply not raining. We are OK for now but if we go under 16% we are in big trouble.”

Though the dams are a key component of the Bay’s water supply, 60% comes from the Nooitgedacht works in Addo, which receives its supply from the Orange River via the Gariep Dam, 400km of canals and tunnels and then the Scheepersvlakte Dam.

And while Nooitgedacht is expected to be operational by 2021, a water shortage would hit the western supply side of the city.

The last time the combined level sank below 30% was in October 2017.

According to the municipal statement issued on Monday, the level of the Kouga Dam is 14.58%, the Churchill is at 73.62%, Impofu 16.55% and Groendal 38.75%.


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