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R50m made available for drought intervention in EC municipalities

The Gamka Dam in the Karoo in November 2017.
The Gamka Dam in the Karoo in November 2017.
Image: Esa Alexander/Sunday Times

More than R50m has been made available for drought intervention in Eastern Cape municipalities, the water and sanitation department said on Tuesday.

Acting director-general Trevor Balzer made the announcement during a joint virtual media briefing in Nelson Mandela Bay by the department as well as Amatola Water, Rand Water and and the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality.

Balzer said the department, together with Amatola Water and affected municipalities, had been working hard to bring relief to all communities that are affected by drought in the Eastern Cape since the province was declared a drought-stricken area.

Balzer said his department, through Amatola Water and Rand Water, as well as the cooperative governance and traditional affairs department, delivered 5,694 water tanks and 173 water trucks to service communities around the Eastern Cape as part of drought and Covid-19 pandemic interventions.

“A total of 756 water tanks were also delivered and installed in priority schools around the province. 274 boreholes have been drilled to augment water supply in the province,” he said.

He said as part of increasing drought intervention in Nelson Mandela Bay, Rand Water estimated that it will cost government R6m to procure an additional 100 5,000l tanks and 20 water trucks for further emergency intervention towards the current water challenges in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality.

“Water trucks will be made available for two months,” Balzer said.

He said his department will ensure funding was available for the completion of the Nooitgedagt water scheme because Nelson Mandela metro municipality also depends heavily on it for its water supply.

“Progress on the Sunday’s River Valley Canal is to be closely monitored to ensure its completion prior to the commissioning of the work on the Nooitgedagt water scheme,” he said.

He further announced that in Dr Beyers Naude local municipality the department through Rand Water and Amatola Water will provide 20 additional water tanks and three water trucks to augment the five that are already operating to improve water service delivery in that municipality.

“Amatola Water is in the process of appointing a service provider to avail another three tankers. In this instance, the water trucks will also be made available for two months,” he said.

With regards to Amathole district municipality, Amatola Water and Rand Water have deployed five tankers as of Sunday, out of the additional 20 water trucks required for Butterworth.

Regarding the Ngqamakhwe water pipeline that will supply water to Butterworth and surrounding areas, Balzer said additional funding is to be committed as required for the project to be completed within the agreed to timeline.

“The project team is ready to establish the site office in October . The project steering committee is also functional and the construction permit has been granted by the department of labour."

On the raising of the Gcuwa Weir to enhance water security, additional funding is to be available for the  project to be completed by the end of 2021.

Two boreholes will be drilled and elevated tanks are to be installed in Ngquthu Village to improve water supply.

He said a team of hydrologists has been appointed from a panel of Amatola Water specialists and are to be deployed in October, and Amatola Water and Rand Water are in the process of appointing a service provider to deliver an additional five water trucks in Ndlambe municipality to increase water supply.

He however raised concern about the  challenges of illegal connections, water leaks, vandalism and theft of water infrastructure across municipalities.

“These all contribute to water losses with a negative impact on water availability and revenue collection,” he said.

Communities can report criminal acts on the toll-free number 0800 200 200 or at the respective municipalities.

Dispatch Live reported that the last dam will be completely dry by the end of last week in Mnquma without rain. 

Amathole district municipality confirmed that taps in Mnquma would run dry by September 18.

The municipality's main supplier dams are all at alarming levels. Xilinxa dam, which supplies Butterworth, Kotana and Ehlobo, as well as many rural villages between Butterworth and Centane, is already empty.

Gcuwa Weir dam was sitting at 12% on Friday.

Mnquma was declared a drought disaster area in December 2015 and began rationing water in 2016. Soon after, in April 2016, then premier Phumullo Masualle gazetted a provincial drought disaster.

Many Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality residents are already experiencing Day Zero, with tanks delivering water to them daily.

The situation is worse in the western areas such as St Albans, and in KwaNobuhle, Uitenhage. Residents of these neighbourhoods are blaming the municipality for managing the situation poorly.

HeraldLIVE reported last week that on September 14, the five dams that supply Nelson Mandela Bay were at drastically low levels:

  • Kouga dam, the largest, has capacity of 126 million cubic metres of water, but was at 8.4% of this. The same week last year, it was at 40%;
  • The second largest, Impofu dam, has capacity for 106 million cubic metres. It was at 18.5%, similar to last year’s 19%;
  • Kromme/Churchill dam, with capacity of 35.3 million cubic metres, was at 55%, down from 92% last year;
  • Groendal dam, with capacity of 11.7 million cubic metres, was at 22.8%, down from 48.1% last year; and
  • The smallest, Loerie dam, with capacity of 3.1 million cubic metres, was on 33%, down from 59.7% last year.

Taken together, the capacity of the dams is at just under 19%.