Solution to Nelson Mandela Bay’s water woes a long way off

The Port Elizabeth City Hall
SEAT OF POWER: The Port Elizabeth City Hall

Losing almost half the city’s water to leaks and ageing infrastructure, and with the catchment dams sitting at a combined capacity of 17.73%, the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality has its hopes pinned on the Nooitgedacht water scheme as the ultimate solution to the drought.

But the expansion of the Nooitgedacht scheme, which would give the city about 200ML additional water per day, is only due to be completed in a year’s time.

The Bay’s water crisis took centre stage at a municipal public accounts committee meeting on Thursday, as councillors debated the water losses highlighted in the annual report for the 2018/2019 financial year.

According to the report, the municipality lost 43.9% of its water in that financial year due to leaks and water that residents were not paying for.

DA councillor Charles Garai said the Nooitgedacht water scheme was a smokescreen, and the quickest and easiest way to ensure a steady water supply was by simply ensuring it was not lost.

By Thursday, the Bay’s catchment dams were at a combined 17.73% while residents from KwaNobuhle spent most of the day without water.

Over the weekend, residents in the township went without water while the municipality deployed water tanks.

The city said in a statement that shortages in water supply had been caused by high water consumption.

During Thursday’s meeting, Garai told city officials and councillors that the metro did not have a handle on its leaks.

He said media statements that water leaks were solved within 24 hours was irresponsible.

“We’re nowhere near with dealing with the leaks we have in this metro,” Garai said.

“We’re in a crisis now and we can no longer afford to lose our water supply. There’s no plan and this is a crisis.”

Infrastructure and engineering executive director Walter Shaidi said the Nooitgedacht water scheme would be finished by June 2021 and would give the city about 200ML additional water per day.

Shaidi said the Coega Development Corporation would build a desalination plant and the National Treasury had approved the funding.

“We’re going to build a desalination plant that will bring in about 15ML of water a day. The letter is with the mayor to sign,” he said.

On water leaks, Shaidi said the city had already fixed 16,000 water leaks through the seven cluster contractors his department had appointed.

Another issued raised during the meeting was the bucket toilet eradication programme.

DA councillor Kabelo Mogatosi said councillors in the metro were responsible for the situation as they had encouraged land invasions.

“Some of the people here had encouraged people to invade land and when this happens one of the consequences would be an increase with the usage of bucket toilets.

“This is also a costly exercise for the municipality because there is money spent in installing this infrastructure,” Mogatosi said.

Responding to this, Shaidi said some residents refused to allow them to build new toilet facilities,  saying they wanted houses instead.

“On bucket eradication, the 6,010 buckets in the city didn’t go down because there were 4,000 that people refused to let them go because they said they wouldn’t get houses.

“These people said they’ll only let them go when they get houses. We went there with councillor [Athol] Trollip.

“They said they want houses and not our solutions of ablution facilities.

“Councillor [Andile] Lungisa is speaking with the people with the department of human settlements around this matter,” Shaidi said.

Lungisa said building houses was not the municipality’s competency but ongoing discussions with residents from Walmer Township and Veeplaas — the two townships most affected — were ongoing.

- HeraldLIVE

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