Day Zero, the day when the provinces’ municipal water supply is expected to run out, could be approaching sooner than expected as many cities in the province have been experiencing serious water shortages since 2015.
Nelson Mandela Bay, a municipality located within the province, has steadily been running low on the natural resource. These water shortages can largely be attributed to droughts that the province has been experiencing. Meanwhile, community members have placed the blame on the government for poor water infrastructure and management measures.
Currently the only sources of water for the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality comes from government-supplied tanks that deliver on a daily basis, and the Nooitgedacht Scheme, a project that treats water from the Gariep dam, (located in the Free State Province, North of the Eastern Cape) from which clean water is piped to areas in need in the Eastern Cape.
Two of the biggest dams in Nelson Mandela Bay are running dry as a result of droughts. Kouga dam, which is the city’s main water supplier, is only at 3.98% of its full capacity and contains just 1.5% usable water it is sitting at the lowest level it’s ever been since its construction between 1959 to 1969.
The dam last reached its full capacity of 125,910 million litres in 2015 and is currently sitting at just over 5,000 million litres of water.
Impofu dam, which is the second largest dam in the Eastern Cape, has the ability to hold over 100,000 million litres of water at its full capacity. The dam is now sitting at just 16.64% of it’s full capacity.
The Eastern Cape has been battling ongoing droughts for over six years, back to when the entire country was facing dire drought conditions in 2015. The province has yet to bounce back like the rest of the nation, and in 2019 it was declared as a drought disaster area.
On April 30 2021, South Africa’s Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Lindiwe Sisulu met with the Nelson Mandela Municipality to address water and sanitation challenges in the province.
Sisulu then pledged to financially support the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality in order for it to overcome the water crisis. She also assigned 20 water trucks to the Amatola Water board, a bulk water services provider in the Eastern Cape, in order to distribute water and to serve the communities. She also mentioned that 50 boreholes have been dug to help alleviate the problem.
“I know a number of municipalities have been complaining about water. Even yesterday, I received a call from the African National Congress deputy secretary and she told me that the Eastern Cape doesn't have water. I told her I'm already in the province to assist,” Sisulu said at Nelson Mandela Bay on April 30.
Sisulu urged community members to follow the water restrictions, which include irrigation of lawns and filling swimming pools, to prolong a potential Day Zero from taking place.
The last time a Day Zero was predicted in South Africa was in 2018 when the city of Cape Town, in the Western Cape Province, experienced crisis levels of water shortages.
The municipality has approved plans to construct a seawater desalination plant in the Eastern Cape. In the meantime, boreholes have been dug to help with the access of water and the province will continue relying on receiving water through the Nooitgedacht Scheme from the Gariep Dam in Free State.