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Nelson Mandela Bay needs new approach amid water crisis


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Nelson Mandela Bay needs new approach amid water crisis

27th May 2022

By: Natasha Odendaal
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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With the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality (NMBM) experiencing a severe drought that could leave it without water by the end of June, a new approach is required to ensure water security, a webinar has heard.

The Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA), in collaboration with the Water Research Commission (WRC), hosted a #MBDAConversations Webinar to provide solutions for coping with extreme weather events, recurring droughts and the water crisis.


“Nelson Mandela Bay is currently experiencing a severe drought, which has seen some of the lowest dam levels in recorded history,” said NMBM water and sanitation director Barry Martin.

“When we looked at all the municipal resources and based on the licence extractions that we can take from those various resources, the available water storage will be finished at the end of June.”


One solution proposed by the NMBM is the improvement of the water supply mix and diversification to enable alternative supply backups to assist when one area is struggling.

Further, average water consumption was over 200 ℓ/d a person, whereas it should be 50 ℓ/d a person, added Martin, noting that it was a paradigm shift that the entire country needed to go through.

North West University Professor Roelof Burger explained that there was a good understanding of the meteorological drivers of rainfall variability over the Eastern Cape, with evidence that the variability of rainfall was increasing over time, meaning that water would become harder to manage in the future.

“Therefore, a new approach would certainly have to be considered in relation to being a water-scarce region. The realities of climate change are undeniable - as a development agency, and a country, we need to position ourselves to find solutions to development challenges,” said MBDA operations executive Debbie Hendricks.

University of the Free State Professor Andries Jordaan proposed a drought monitoring system with the national Disaster Management Centre, which would play a key role in capturing critical data. Droughts required monitoring on a 24/7 basis and on a weekly basis.

“We need to use more than one drought index in monitoring drought, then we need to pay attention to what regional extensive drought is doing so that we can have a bigger picture of what is going on over our area and we need to invest more in nature-based solutions for mitigating the impact of drought risk,” said University of Cape Town Professor Babatunde Abiodun.

“For the best solution, we need to use nature-based resolutions for reducing drought risk. A lot of miniature-based solutions have been suggested and most of them are based on land-use changes, such as land conservation and wetland restoration.”

South Africa is water-scarce and has a highly variable climate, with uneven access and distribution.

Strategic interventions to mitigate this had been identified, including water conservation, demand management, water development projects, diversifying the water mix and development of water projects, added Department of Water and Sanitation’s Dr Chris Moseki.

“The aim of the webinar is to discuss and unpack the climatic conditions and persistent droughts to work towards developing a framework that seeks to mitigate against the water security challenges by developing short- and long-term coping strategies,” said WRC’s Shafick Adams.

MBDA spokesperson Luvuyo Bangazi added that such conversations form part of the NMBM Joint Operations Centre in dealing with the water crisis.

“This session was about expanding on understanding the best practice. We continue to stress that water conservation is a collective effort, the city alone cannot do it, but it’s an issue we can resolve.”

“The agency is positioned to pilot ideas and concepts, and document our learnings, including sharing this information by applying what we have learned. Hosting discussion platforms such as this webinar helps to distribute information and also promote awareness of pertinent issues to the city,” Hendricks concluded.


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