NELSON Mandela Bay was declared a drought disaster area yesterday, allowing the city to apply for R1.6-billion in emergency funding to tackle the crisis.
As supply dam levels continued to fall to just 36% of capacity and warnings were sounded that Port Elizabeth’s western suburbs and inner city could run out of water by October, the council acted to pave the way for a raft of emergency measures.
A desalination plant that will cost R750-million.
The fast-tracking of the Nooitgedacht Dam low level scheme that will cost R650-million. It will take about 18 months and augment the supply by 100 to 120 megalitres a day.
Groundwater schemes that will cost R100000.
Repairs at schools and water loss detection that will require a budget of R80-million.
The city was declared a local disaster area in terms of the Disaster Management Act and will be approaching the government and the provincial administration for funds.
Speaking after the council endorsed the declaration, Mayor Zanoxolo Wayile urged “all organs of society, social groupings, churches, trade unions, businesses and residents to continue to support our efforts to save water”.
The mayor said the municipality was working closely with the provincial Education Department “to ensure that something is done urgently to save water at schools”.
Earlier, city water and sanitation director Barry Martin said leaks at schools accounted for a significant quantity of water lost each day.
He said in reply to a question that the municipality had been trying for three years to get the provincial Education and Public Works departments to address a leak at a Booysen Park school, but there had been “no progress”.
In a presentation to the council, Martin said usage had dropped from 280Ml a day to 250Ml.
This could mean the current supply would last until the second half of next year, although some suburbs would run out of water in October this year unless some action was taken.
In terms of the long-range weather forecast for March to July, rainfall was “likely to be average to slightly below average”.
Martin said that even if the usual average rainfall did occur, “the run-off into the dams will be slightly below average, as the catchment areas are likely to be relatively dry”.
In his report to the council, acting municipal manager Elias Ntoba said the metropole was “facing a potential disaster if the drought persists, with the consequence that the dams may be severely drawn down, necessitating the application of very severe water restrictions”.
Ntoba warned that this would have “severely negative consequences for industries and the jobs that they provide both locally and nationally”.
The acting city manager added that it was therefore “essential” that a disaster be declared.
One effect of the declaration of the municipality as a local drought disaster area, experts said, was that projects could be completed more speedily.
This was because leniency was provided for in so far as legislation such as the National Environmental Management Act was concerned, Ntoba said