The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality in the Eastern Cape has been facing dire water shortages. City officials were forced to declare Day Zero in early September, and infrastructure failures have worsened the situation.

The City has been struggling to provide water to residents and businesses intermittently for the last two years, due to a drought. Some areas have gone days without water.

On September 4, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Infrastructure and Engineering Portfolio Head Councillor Mongameli Bobani declared Day Zero has come.

“We are experiencing water outages specially in the Western suburbs, Northern Areas and Uitenhage. As the City we can tell you that we are on Day Zero because we are using more water that we actually have in our dams. Currently our consumption of water is 290 million litres per day while we are supposed to use 268 million litres a day or less.”

“We would like to apologise to the residents for the inconvenience caused but this crisis is beyond our control. The rain is not falling enough making our dams drier each day. The current total dam levels are at 18.8% and following the recent rain we have only seen about 1.5% with the more than 100 mm rain that has fallen in the catchment areas over the last two weeks.”

There have also been a series of serious infrastructure failures that have worsened the situation. In early September, a bulk pipe at the Nooitgedacht pump station burst. The Daily Maverick reports that some residents were driven to desperation, and broke drains open to access water.

The water infrastructure problems has been even further exacerbated by an electricity crisis. A fault occurred in the main electricity supply to Nooitgedagt on September 6. The effect of this outage is that no water was treated at the works resulting in four main reservoirs running empty as well as their supply zones. This includes the supply to the Coega Special Economic Zone.

CEO of the Nelson Mandela Business Chamber, Nomkhita Mona said that these water shortages could shut businesses down.

“Practically all productive economic activity requires water in one way or another, and the local industries most affected include fruit, dairy, and other farming and agro-processing, tanneries, textile manufacturing, the meat and beverages industries, as well as automotive and other manufacturing.

“Some of our member companies have indicated that the lack of water would have a devastating impact on their businesses – such that some would have to shut their operations down.”

Bobani said the City has fixed over 15 000 water leaks which has saved millions of litres of water, and they are working on a number of projects to mitigate their water supply.

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