Day Zero looms for city supply


The official estimate of the water level at Settler’s Dam is a paltry 15%. The much smaller Howieson’s Poort is at about 25%.

Four consecutive years of well-below-average rainfall have taken their toll. Grahamstown Residents Association secretary Tim Bull estimates that the dams’ water supply to the western side of the city will last for another 35 days before they reach their ‘dead water’ level.

High temperatures and evaporation can reduce these estimates, though rainfall can extend them. However, unless there is substantial rainfall, we will reach Day Zero mid-February – the start of the Rhodes University academic year.

If a floating inlet is introduced at Settlers dam, pumping lower could extend dam water supplies until about the end of March 2019.

Once there is no dam water available, all of Makhanda (Grahamstown) will be reliant on the 10 megalitres a day currently supplied by the James Kleynhans Water Treatment Works, which sources its water from the Orange River system.

Current daily demand is about 22 megalitres a day.

If the dams run dry this will necessitate rationing.

Despite restrictions and warnings, the Makana Municipality reported in December that water usage had not declined.

Work has begun on doubling the capacity of the James Kleynhans Water Treatment Works from 10 to 20 megalitres per day, but this will continue for several years and will almost certainly be too late to save the city from major disruptions if drought conditions persist.

Makana Municipality has imposed stringent water restrictions and the Council has taken the following resolutions:

  • A fine per offence will be charged for people contravening the restrictions as per the
    municipal by-laws;
  • The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Acting Director of Engineering and Infrastructural Services (DEIS) have been granted authority to review the restrictions based on the raw water supply and treated water in the Municipal systems until the restrictions are removed subject to monthly reports to Council being submitted;
  • The CFO and DEIS have been granted authority to approve additional staff/overtime/shift work to manage the city’s water supply when necessary until the restrictions are removed in consultation with the Municipal Manager;
  • The Municipality will make a formal application for revised volume abstraction to the Department of Water & Sanitation;
  • Makana Municipality will prepare a project plan with a budget for submission to the Department of Water and Sanitation to improve the water supply and storage at the Howieson’s Poort pump station and to improve water treatment at James Kleynhans.

The Municipality has urged residents to adhere to the water restrictions and encouraged them to invest in water tanks to harvest rainwater.

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