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Mayor declares Nelson Mandela Bay a drought disaster area

May 24, 2017
Mayor declares Nelson Mandela Bay a drought disaster area

The severity of the drought and its impact on the dams supplying water to the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (NMBM) motivated the Executive Mayor, Athol Trollip, to declare a local state of disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act (57 of 2002) as of  Monday. 

Addressing journalists on Wednesday, Trollip said that the region will be declared a disaster area when the water crisis is promulgated and gazetted by the provincial and national governments.

The municipality previously said it would initiate the process of declaring the Bay a disaster area once dam levels dropped below 40% - combined capacity in its five dams is currently at 38.5%.

The water situation has also been worsened by the collapse of the Kirkwood canal, which supplies water to the Nooitgedaght scheme - cutting the Metro's water supply by 30%.

Sigficant loss has been at the Churchill dam, which is sitting at 13.10%.

Previously, Trollip said that the last 10% of water in the dams is unusable, which means that, technically, the Metro is sitting at 28.5% of water and the Churchill dam at 3.10%.

Thus, a severe stressed water situation is being experienced and measures have been taken to reduce water consumption.

"During the periods 2014/15 and 2015/16 the Department of Water & Sanitation has imposed water restrictions for both these water years. The NMBM however has not managed to reduce its consumption within acceptable parameters. The Churchill dam has reduced to 17% with hydraulic failure eminent. This means that the dam will run dry," the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality said.

It further said that the historic average dam levels are as follows:

  • March 2016:    84.4%
  • March 2017:    44.5%

"As from 1 September 2016 water restriction were imposed at dams levels of 72.8%, with further restrictions imposed on 1 December 2016 when the dam levels were at 58.3%," the municipality described.

"Over the last 12 months the average rainfall at Churchill dams has only exceeded the 20 year average on three occasions. For the remainder of the time the rainfall was approximately 50% of the 20 year average. This means that not sufficient rain has fallen during this period to replenish the dams

"As a result of the very low rainfall experienced over the past year, the storages in the dams serving NMBM have reached critical levels. If the current drought conditions persist it will  have disastrous and far reaching negative implications for the metro."


"From the detailed water consumption trend, the dam levels are dropping between 3% and 4% per month and could reach dead storage in about four months. This is the lowest point below which water cannot be abstracted," the Metro said.


Major Storage Dams supplying the Metro (levels as at 22 May 2017)

Capacity Volume of water :

  • Kouga              22.14%   27 882 Ml
  • Churchill          13.50%   4 759 Ml
  • Impofu             65.14%   68 890 Ml
  • Loerie              47.29%   1 431 Ml
  • Groendal         55.58%   6 470 Ml

109 432 Ml

Ave all 38.86 % of total combined capacity.


For Port Elizabeth, 2016 was the 3rd lowest on record with 447 mm or rain. The average had been 623 mm.

"2016 was particularly dry in PE and ranks in the category of one of the driest to driest years and season," the Metro said.

"Calculations put the seasonal and yearly rainfall at between 30and 50% below norm." 


The South African Weather Services  latest seasonal forecast is indicating an improved chance of normal to slightly above normal rainfall for the Eastern Cape from April through until July. Drier than normal conditions are expected in the East over the former Transkei and Ciskei regions initially from March through until mid- April with a slightly better chance of rain over the western parts (Sarah Baartman District).

Development of Emergency Action Plan

As part of the Water Restrictions implementation the following actions have been taken:

  • Water saving awareness campaign:
    • Print Media:
      • Articles
      • Advertisements
      • Account inserts
    • Radio:
      • Interviews
      • Advertisements.
    • Social media:
      • Website
      • U-tube
    • Schools:
      • School visitation
      • Community Theatre
  • Non Revenue Water Interventions:
    • Bulk Water Supply Initiatives
    • GMA & DMA Meters
    • Remote Metering
    • Non Revenue Water
    • Pressure Management
    • ICI Consumers & Billing
    • Leak Repairs
      • ATTP Leak Repair Programme
      • Water Wastage at Schools
      • Cluster Contractor Repairs
      • Repair & Maintenance Contractor
      • Leak Fixing Festival
    • Domestic Meter Audits
    • Valve & Fire Hydrant Audits
    • Water Meter Replacement
  • Water Augmentation:
    • Nooitgedagt Low Level Scheme
    • Coega Kop Boreholes
    • Desalination
  • Water Operations (Removal of operational constraints):
    • Transfer pump station
    • Scheepervlakte raw water pipeline
    • Elandsjagt Raw water pump station
    • Securing additional treatment chemicals when treating water abstracted from low dams levels.

"In view of the potentially disastrous consequences if the drought persists, the above matters will be further developed in to Emergency Action Plan. Some of these interventions will be assisted with the declaration of a local disaster in terms of the legislation," the municipality said.

In conclusion, it said that the actions taken so far by the Infrastructure & Engineering Services Directorate to curtail water consumption (such as public awareness campaigns , water restrictions, penalties for over-consumption etc.) have had very limited impact and dam levels have declined.

"Adisaster declaration will assist in the identification of necessary resources, personnel and funds to be allocated as well as extraordinary measures that can be taken to limit the usage of water."