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Nelson Mandela Bay Drought: Solutions in Sight

Umm Mohammed Umar 

3 min read

14 September 2022

14H25

Nelson Mandela Bay is brainstorming on how to become a water resilient. According to the municipality’s website, since November 2015, NMB has been experiencing a dry period of below average monthly rainfall, resulting in declining dam levels and water storage capacities. While there has been some rainfall, intermittently, dam levels remain critically low – certain catchment areas did not receive significant rainfall. Improper management and vandalism have also been blamed for the water crisis.

Nelson Mandela Bay’s water and sanitation director, Barry Martin, participated in a workshop recently held to brainstorm ways in which the metro could become a water resilient city. Martin discussed whether or not the metro should stay with the Nooitgedacht Low Level Water Scheme by developing another phase or focus on desalination as well. He expressed concern at the high cost of desalination and needed very strict planning to be accomplished. Martin’s view was that it was preferable to diversify water sources, for a so called ‘water mix’. News24 reported Martin as saying, “One of the critical things that we have realised during this drought is our current and future water needs. We currently have a water mix of three water sources. These are, the Nooitgedacht scheme (51% but approximately 70% during the drought), surface water (48%) and natural spring ground water (1%).” Martin added that more varied sources of water are being sought for the future of the region, saying, “The key in building water resilience lies in the diversification of the type and location of water sources.”

According to Martin desalination of sea water was a provocative topic. He, however, feared that without planning for it, the drought in the Eastern Cape could escalate to an even larger disaster: “So, if you plan adequately in advance, put your procurement processes in place in advance and get the market to price this appropriately, they will pose less risk and the biggest thing here is risk.” He said that it was of critical importance to decide whether to start Nooitgedacht phase four first, or the desalination plant.

Meanwhile, Minister of Water and Sanitation, Senzo Mchunu, said it did not matter how full the Gariep Dam was, residents had to carefully consider how the water was used. The dam supplies water to the metro through Nooitgedacht. He said that thus far the first three phases of the Nooitgedacht scheme had been sustainable, but that it might be time to initiate phase four.” Mchunu described the drought as an attack on the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, and said that it should defend itself.

 

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