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15 July 2011

Restrictions still in force as Bay dams overflow

Brian Hayward

THERE is nothing stopping Nelson Mandela Bay from drawing as much water as it likes from the Loerie Dam while it and the Kouga Dam are overflowing, but despite this the city has yet to drop water restrictions.

Meanwhile, calls to raise the wall of the region’s largest supply dam, the Kouga Dam, have been renewed, “to add to water security” and prevent crippling water restrictions in the future.

Senior water officials said yesterday that although the Water Affairs Department was still rubber-stamping proposals which would allow the Bay to use 100% of its quota from the Kouga Dam – pumped to the city via the small Loerie Dam, a “balancing dam” – the city could draw “as much as it likes” while the Loerie Dam overflowed.

The department is in the process of lifting restrictions on the city’s water usage from the two major dams which are wholly dedicated to it, the Churchill and the Impofu on the Kromme River, from 15% in the 2010/11 water year, to 10%. It will drop the 10% restriction entirely once both the Churchill and three-times-larger Impofu reach a combined capacity of 85%. Yesterday they stood at 76%.

Both the Loerie and Kouga dams have been overflowing for weeks now, thanks to good rains. “Both dams are overflowing. When both are overflowing, it makes sense that the metro takes as much as it can,” said a senior water official, who asked not to be named.

But despite calls from businesses and residents to drop restrictions, the municipality would not say yesterday when water restrictions would be dropped or eased.

“We have not yet received any official notification from Water Affairs explaining when it will lift its restrictions,” spokesperson Kupido Baron said yesterday.

For the last water year, which ended on June 30, the Bay could only use 60% of its allocation from the Kouga Dam, or about 14000 megalitres a year. The city’s water consumption from that dam is monitored carefully, as it is pumped from the Kouga Dam to the Loerie Dam, and then to the city.

Gamtoos Valley farmers were told earlier this month they could use their full quota (60000Ml a year) of the Kouga Dam’s water again, after being forced to use just 40% (24000Ml) during the last water year, crippling many citrus farmers.

Gamtoos Irrigation Board chairperson Pierre Joubert, who also sits on the Algoa Water Study Group, said it was essential that the department seriously considered raising the Kouga Dam wall to add to the region’s water security.

Raising the 82m-high wall by an additional 15m has been under discussion for more than 10 years, and is part of the Algoa Water Study Group’s long- term recommendations to the department.

Eastern Cape Water Affairs spokesperson Mandilakhe Zenzile said the department’s amended restrictions on the Bay’s water consumption were about to be gazetted and simply needed the signature of director-general Trevor Balzer.

- PE Herald