Everyone in Port Elizabeth is being demanded to use water “sparingly” and water consumption is limited to 50 litres per person, per day, to a maximum of 15,000 litres per household per month. This makes no sense.
On the face of it, without scrutiny it all appears quite right – everyone should use only as much as they need without exceeding 50 litres. All fine and good, our recommended daily intake is two litres, so it leaves 48 for everything else. Everything else is washing clothes, washing dishes, washing ourselves and flushing toilets. Two toilet flushes is around 20 litres, so you’ve got 28 for a shower, to wash your hands, your clothes and your dishes.
It’s tight, but do-able. Get to the household limit of 15 kilolitres per month and the larger the family the less each person gets. Now 15,000 litres is actually quite a lot of water to get through every 30 days, but working with diminishing returns means this limit has to shift down the more the dams empty.
In 2013, it was announced that 83 young people had been trained to assist with the elimination of water leaks in PE as part of the municipality’s Extended Public Works Programme.
Back in 2015, when Danny Jordan was still mayor of PE, a War on Leaks was announced by then-president, Jacob Zuma. With a budget of R680m for the 2015/16 financial year the first 3,000 of 15,000 young people were to be trained in the elimination of water leaks. It was also at this event at the Dan Qeqe Stadium that it was stated the Department of Water and Sanitation had committed funding for the construction of the Nooitgedacht Water Scheme to increase the supply of water to the municipality – completion was scheduled for February 2017.
In 2018 the DA was criticised for their handling of the water shortages in the PE area, with their focus on punishing consumers by hiking water prices and fitting restrictors. This action, rather than actioning the identification and repair of the leaks, drew ire from some quarters.
In July of this year, it was reported that the municipality received “R97-million for groundwater development through the Municipal Disaster Grant and spent this money drilling 150 boreholes. Ndamase said this week that no boreholes are online at the moment”.
This month, Mongameli Bobani, Infrastructure and Engineering Committee mayoral committee member apparently laid the blame for the city’s high water consumption on the residents who are using too much. Reportedly some 290 megalitres of water are extracted from the dams daily, but according to Nqaba Bhanga, DA leader in the Eastern Cape, 130 megalitres are lost before even reaching the city’s taps.
At the launch of that War on Leaks campaign in ’15, Mayor Jordaan was quoted as saying “In our area as a metro, we must address the question of water leaks. The many high bills people have for water are not as result of their use of water but the inability of the municipality to tackle water leaks”.
With Summer fast approaching, it will soon be the end of the rainy season and that means the dams and their current level below 19% will likely not see much more water. Only a concerted and well-constructed plan will make an impact on the drought conditions being experienced, but this outcome seems unlikely based on the political dithering of just the last five years.
On a final note, internet users turning to search engines for information on gastrointestinal symptoms appears to predict a spike in Covid-19 cases, somewhere between three and four weeks later. This finding was made by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital. The research focused on search terms for specific areas and the trend showed a reliable pattern in viral infection spikes.