Torrential rain brought a measure of relief to the drought-affected Nelson Mandela Bay main supply dams catchment area in August and September 2018, with more than 200mm recorded in some areas of the city in a single weekend causing a significant rise in levels.
With combined capacity down to 17.95% at the beginning of August, the downpours over the weekend of 10-12 August and over the past two months have seen an impressive improvement of total capacity now at 54.8% – with the Churchill Dam the most impressive at 100% capacity. Authorities have been quick to urge residents to continue to use water sparingly though. The desperately needed rain, however, came at a price.
Eastern Cape rains led to severe flooding in places
The heavy downpours on 10 August 2018 (200mm in some places) saw more than 200 people from Missionvale being evacuated after they woke up to drenched belongings and items floating in the knee-deep water beside their beds. Forced to leave with just the clothes on their backs, the troubled families had to spend Saturday night at Missionvale Primary School and were given warm meals during the day. Those affected by the devastation – which resulted in all that they owned being destroyed – said they had found themselves in this situation far too often.
They said that while they appreciated the help offered, had they been given houses as promised more than ten years ago, they would not be in this predicament.
SA Weather service on the rainfall
The South African Weather Services’ Port Elizabeth spokesperson, Garth Sampson, said:
“Although only 29mm were recorded at the Port Elizabeth Airport, it was a very different situation in the catchment of Nelson Mandela Bay.
“Joubertina had a whopping 163mm, and our man on the spot at Kareedouw said his rain gauge overflowed at midnight, so he had more than 155mm.
“Even Patensie was lucky and recorded 41mm,” Sampson said on Saturday morning.
He said the Krakeel and Kromme rivers which connect to the dams were flowing beautifully. A further 17.4mm fell in Patensie on Saturday night (11 August), while Joubertina received an additional 37mm, Port Elizabeth 7.4mm and Kareedouw 28mm. As much as 293mm of rain was measured that weekend in parts of the Langkloof.
Warning on water restrictions
“Please, this does not solve our water crisis,” Sampson said.
“Use water sparingly,” he added.
The Nelson Mandela Bay municipality welcomed the good rains. Municipal spokesperson Mthubanzi Mniki said the overall impact showed the Churchill Dam now at 100%, Kouga Dam 54.58% and Groendal Dam 62.20%, with an overall average of 54.80%.
“As can be seen, the average dam levels have improved, but the municipality is by no means out of this disastrous situation,” Mniki said.
The municipality continues to monitor the real impact of the rain as and when it happens, as significant run-off takes place with heavier downpours.
“Residents, businesses, visitors and tourists are encouraged to remain vigilant and save water,” adds Mniki.
The SA Weather service reports the outlook for rain leading into the summer is not great at all, so every last drop counts. Eastern Cape farmers can ill-afford another drought period, leading to the big losses already suffered.