6 April 2020

By Cobus Meiring 

COVID-19 puts Nelson Mandela Bay’s precarious water supply and the changing climate under the spotlight

“COVID-19 puts the spotlight on dangerously low water levels in the Nelson Mandela Bay storage dams,” says Cobus Meiring of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI).

“COVID-19 brings a whole new spin on the pending Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) water crisis, as the availability of sufficient clean water is paramount to allow for the frequent washing of hands as one of the frontline methods to safeguard against contracting the novel coronavirus, and also to ensure the general well-being of the community facing the extreme implications of draconian drought relief measures.”

According to Meiring a false sense of water-security prevailed ever since the drought in the Eastern Cape reached its peak in 2017 and 2018. He says the situation has never really normalised, only for the dilemma to now resurface, just in time to coincide with the advent of COVID-19 pandemic.

“There can be little doubt that the Eastern and Southern Cape have been feeling the effects of climate change over the past five years, ranging from changes in rainfall patterns, wildfire as well as persistent and devastating drought”.

According to Meiring, the inability to ensure consistent and sufficient water supply to the Metro is a clear and present threat to the well-being of the city and its residents, as the levels of major supply dams such as the Kouga, Churchill and Mphofu dams are fast reaching critically low levels, with little prediction of sufficient rainfall in the catchments to dramatically improve the situation for the foreseeable future and medium-term.

“Although much of the dire water situation in the region is brought about by uncontrollable forces of nature, there is a huge responsibility on the water authorities and the NMB Municipality to proactively respond to the situation, implement drought relief measures timeously and generate high levels of public awareness,” concludes Meiring.

The Southern Cape Landowners Initiative is a public platform for environmental management entities and landowners in mitigating the effects of climate change.

Written by Marti Kirstein