Four projects in pipeline to prevent day zero in Nelson Mandela Bay

A few thousand high-water users are due to have restrictors put in place in an effort to reduce Nelson Mandela Bay’s daily usage of 290Ml a day
BLOCKED: A few thousand high-water users are due to have restrictors put in place in an effort to reduce Nelson Mandela Bay’s daily usage of 290Ml a day
Image: FILE

The Nelson Mandela Bay municipality is pinning its hopes on four long-term projects that will add an extra 85 megalitres a day to the city water network by September 2022.

In the meantime, a few thousand high-water users will have restrictors put in place in an effort to reduce the daily demand of 290Ml a day.  

This was said by water and sanitation senior director Barry Martin, who took part in a webinar hosted by the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber on Thursday.

The city is only meant to use 260Ml a day to avoid taps running dry.

He said many ratepayers appeared to easily afford high water bills, leaving them to use huge amounts of water.

“They don’t care how much they use.

“Water restrictions don’t seem to bother them.

“Water restrictors will be put in place in the short term.”

The restrictors, he said, would be installed before December.

“We will be tackling those high-users and arresting their consumption.

“There are a few thousands of these customers.”

The metro’s call to households is to keep water consumption to no more than 15Kl a month or 500l a day.

It wants individual residents to use no more than 50l a day.

The projects Martin said that could stop taps from running dry, include:

  • Various boreholes to be completed by February 2021, which would add 15Ml a day;
  • Nooitgedacht scheme phase 3 to be completed by June 2021, which would add 40Ml a day;
  • Coega desalination plant to be completed by December 2021, adding 15Ml a day; and
  • Coegakop water treatment works to be completed by September 2022, adding 15Ml a day.
A slide from Barry Martin's presentation
A slide from Barry Martin's presentation

Phase 3 of the Nooitgedacht scheme phase comes at a cost of R437m which will increase the capacity from 140-210Ml a day.

Martin said the message of reducing consumption in the Bay could not be shared enough.

“The proverbial day zero is coming because we are taking too much out of the system on a daily basis,” he said.

A behavioural change was urgently needed, he said.

“The same goes for the municipality,” he said, referring to the “thousands of leaks plaguing the city”.

The Herald reported on Thursday on how the Bay has frustrated organised business’ efforts to lend a hand in fixing water leaks in the city.

There are about 6,000 water leaks in the city, resulting in millions of litres of drinking water going down the drain every day. 

Dam levels have dwindled over the years, with the threat of the proverbial day zero ever looming.

As of Wednesday, the city’s combined dam levels were at 21.62%.

Martin, who said the dam pictures used in The Herald on Thursday’s front page were a true reflection of the dire situation, said the 21.62% figure was the same level as two years ago.

“This comes when there is no clear signal that we will have significant rain until January 2021.”

He said the situation was even worse as the next three months tended to be the hottest periods of the year.

“Even more water will be consumed and this is why we need to conserve what we have.

“If we don’t do get this right, we will end up with no water.”

Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber CEO Nomkhita Mona, who facilitated the webinar, kicked off by sharing that former VWSA MD David Powels had warned of the looming water crisis 10 years ago.

“He was responding to the president at the time who asked Powels what the biggest challenge for business was in the city, so this situation is not new,” she said.

She said planning was key, adding if restrictions were adhered to the city would not run out of water.

Chamber president Andrew Muir said it was well documented that SA was a water-scarce country.

“The Bay has been under threat from dwindling dam levels for some time,” he said.

“The business sector is aware of how this has a hold over the economy.

“This conversation is important for business and all citizens.”

Western Cape government green economy chief director Helen Davies highlighted a resilient work strategy that was needed for businesses to cope during a water shortage.

This, she said, was crucial for every business to reduce its own consumption.

“Lots of water can be saved at a minimal cost through sub-metering and behavioural changes,” she said.

She said with many Western Cape businesses reducing water, they also ended up saving on energy.

“They improved their own processes of operation.”

Water affairs department water regulation director Andrew Lucas said the city historically used too much water.

“The only time there was a decent improvement in usage was about 2009 and 2010.”

He said it was inexcusable for any city to lose treated water.

“Leak control is essential especially for the metro to ensure they have sustained water.”

He said any planning for water conversation should be done timeously.

“If a municipality complies with water restrictions and all users do the same there would be enough water for everyone,” he said.

Jonty Wattrus, head of client experience at Watelec, said if everyone just managed to save 20l a day it would add up as a collective.

“If you have a wee you only need to use 50% of the water in the cistern.”

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