Two Eastern Cape towns to see 'Day Zero' sooner than Cape Town

2018-02-01 15:30 - Unathi Nkanjeni
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Kouga Dam

Cape Town - While Cape Town is expecting Day Zero on 16 April, two farm towns in the Eastern Cape might see Day Zero even sooner.

Despite heavy rain and flash floods that recently took place, the Kouga dam is at a critically low level - individually‚ at 9.95%.

According to Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB), the severe drought in Hankey and Patensie in the Gamtoos Valley prompted the Kouga Municipality to introduce strict water rationing. 

SEE: Nelson Mandela Bay installs water-flow restrictors in households that exceed water usage

However, Kouga Executive Mayor Elza van Lingen told GroundUp that “Day Zero” — when the municipality would no longer be able to provide water through the taps — is mid-March.

“I cannot give an exact date but according to our estimates‚ if we cannot receive good rains now in our catchment area‚ then by mid-March we will have Day Zero," says Van Lingen. 

In Cape Town, the city's Day Zero is expected on 16 April or sooner and the consumption per person has been limited to 50 litres of water per day since Thursday, 01 February. 

SEE: SA on water crisis watch

The main economic driver of the towns is agriculture - citrus‚ vegetables‚ watermelons and maize are the main crops, and Van Lingen says the drought has led to job loss on farms and she expects more job shedding if the rains did not come.

She says that both towns receive an annual quota from the Kouga dam but the demand for water has been increasing as the population has grown and the annual quota has not been sufficient to meet the demand for these past few years.

Added to that, she says the towns receive water from the Gamtoos Government Water Scheme‚ which is administered by the Gamtoos Irrigation Board. The scheme consists of the Kouga Dam and the downstream canal system. 

SEE: #CapeWaterCrisis: How to secure safe drinking water after Day Zero

Mayor Athol Trollip, announced on Sunday, 28 January, that certain strategies have to be put into place to prevent the Bay’s taps from running dry.

According to the Kouga Municipality, water shedding is already in place for the towns of Hankey and Patensie, as these towns have used up their water quotas for the period ending June 2018, 

Trollip says, “We need all hands on deck. We are facing a massive challenge, which can only be overcome if we are ALL part of the solution.”

SEE: Nelson Mandela Bay dam levels hit an all-time low of 26.94%

What’s the strategy you might ask?

The strategy, and the success of Nelson Mandela Bay not reaching the much dreaded and feared Day, Zero, depends on everyone in the Bay using no more than 60 litres of water per day.

SEE: SA Water Crisis: 60 litres a day for PE and the rest of the Bay

With no signs of rainfall forecasted for both towns, Chairman of the Patensie Farmers Association‚ Petros Du Preez says he is afraid that crops would wilt‚ resulting in massive job losses. More on weather updates will be made available later. 

ALSO SEE: Weather Update: Severe thunderstorms forecast for the north east, fire warning in the west

According to Du Preez, the Kouga dam has reached a historic low level and they depend on irrigation for crops. "This will soon affect our crops as there won’t be any water to irrigate the farms. I am afraid this will have an effect on the economy of the area because of massive job losses,” he adds.

With an emergency action plan said to be on the cards, Van Lingen says the municipality had approached the Gamtoos Irrigation Board and the Department of Water and Sanitation for funds. 

The plan involved surveying sites for drilling of boreholes near the Kouga Dam at a cost of R28 million.

Van Lingen pleads with the general public to use water sparingly, adding that public meetings will be held this week in the worst affected areas to come up with a joint plan.

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