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Severe Drought Leads to Eastern Cape Water Restrictions

26 February 2018
Severe Drought Leads to Eastern Cape Water Restrictions

Decreased seasonal rainfall leads to extreme Eastern Cape water restrictions

Water; it’s needed for most things in our daily lives, and now that there is a lack of it, Eastern Cape water restrictions have become a norm for the year 2018. The residents and more so the local farmers of the province are certainly feeling the pinch and are implementing various methods to save as much water as possible.

According to Werner Knoetze, an active contributing resident of the Eastern Cape, Cape Town is known to be an appealing tourist attraction with severe water restrictions, but the Eastern Cape is even worse off.

Knoetze said "Cape Town has other resources that they can tap into, we don't. If the tap is dry, the tap is dry”.

Nelson Mandel Bay Metro Dams

As of last month, the Nelson Mandela Bay metro municipality had a combined volume of 25.17%. Separately the Churchill Dam stood at 18.71%, Kouga Dam at 7.71%, Groendal Dam at 51.80% and Impofu Dam at 43.47%.

Water Saving Methods for Eastern Cape Residents

Water scarcity is a harsh reality for Eastern Cape citizens. However, some of the locals are implementing various methods to cut down on their usage and to spare every drop.

Knoetze said, "We have decided to no longer flush for number one. You can only do it for number two. Running taps unnecessarily for showering and brushing teeth is a big no-no, we can't wash the car, and we can’t fill up the swimming pool. We use minimal water to wash the dishes, and you can't wash each time there is a dirty dish. You need to let it pile up for a while before you wash it."
The installation of Jojo tanks is being looked into. However, it hardly rains, so it is not a viable option in the present situation.

Lucinda Jason, a local salon owner, said she had been forced to ask her clients to wash their hair before arriving, to help her save water.

Karen Ferreira from a dog parlour said "We are trying to use water sparingly. We adapt our services."

Water Restrictions 

Eastern Cape water restrictions are now part of our daily lifestyle, and Knoetze is speaking up and reporting residents that go over their daily limit so that the province has enough to sustain themselves in the future.

"They need to wake up. I report people as it is the end of the line. You can produce electricity with a generator, but you can’t make water. Without water, there is no life" he said.

City of Saints 

Grahamstown, also known as the "City of Saints", located at around 126km from Port Elizabeth is already used to water interruptions.

Ron Weissenberg, a resident of the town, said "We have frequent water outages and depending on the severity of the day, it could either last several days or several hours. It could affect half the settlement or just a street. When the water comes back on, it'll probably contain a lot of slits so it could have a brown or red discolouration."

This could last for hours or perhaps days, which results in the Weissenberg family relying on water tanks to bath, wash dishes and clothes.

Nelson Mandela Bay 

Nelson Mandela Bay spokesperson Mthubanzi Mniki confirmed that the Eastern Cape water restrictions allow for each person to make use of 60 litres of water per day.

Mniki said, "One of the discussions we are having is the possibility of a day zero approaching. We will be making an announcement soon. The options of desalination plants are something that we will be looking into. However, there are serious implications in the budget, when it comes to desalination plants."


The current drought we are facing is causing a critical threat to various ecosystems across the province.

Professor Janine Adams, from the Nelson Mandela University, said, "The drought poses a severe threat to the functionality of the ecosystems, for example, the estuaries and coastal wetlands".
Wetlands and Estuaries are naturally resilient if humans do not tamper with it. Due to urban development, as well as water abstraction from wetlands, it has removed their natural ability to recover from the severe drought.

Adams said, "We're a semi-arid country. There are too many people for the available water resources. We can implement engineering solutions to store water, but this does not keep up with the demand. We need to manage what we have better than we currently are. We also need to use alternative water sources such as recycled water and desalination to prevent similar future situations.


In the past, desalination plants were pricey to construct but were considered a viable problem solver for some areas along coastal regions.

“There is long-term planning both nationally and regionally on securing our water resources, but often there is slow implementation. Money is only prioritised for infrastructure development and upgrades when there is crisis such as a drought‚” Adams said.

Landscape and Weather Conditions

According to Dr Phumelele Gama, from Nelson Mandela University, sections of the Eastern Cape were an easy target for the drought due to the weather conditions, as well as landscape.
Dr Gama said, “Living in a semi-arid region of the country and the level of entitlement as well as taking for granted the supply of water through modern infrastructure has created a society that thinks less of the scarcity of our water supply in general. If you then impose issues such as changing weather patterns, then we realise that it cannot be business as usual and that society’s mindsets need to change‚ and the way municipalities provide water also requires alternative ideas.”

Agri Eastern Cape 

Agri Eastern Cape management committee member, Brent McNamara painted an unfavourable image for local farmers.

McNamara said. “The money for the farmers in the western location is non-existent. They are loaning against their commodities‚ wool‚ and mohair. They have overextended their overdraft facilities at the commercial banks and have already reduced their livestock numbers drastically, even slaughtering their breeding flocks and herds”.

“Once the drought has broken‚ farmers will be holding back animals to rebuild their flocks and herds resulting in fewer animals to market‚ which could make meat prices rise even further. What we do know is that in the western region of our province‚ for the last 36 months‚ that the rain they had‚ has only been between 20-30% of their average rainfall. Farmers are resilient‚ they will continue to make a plan‚ to survive another day‚ one day at a time‚” added McNamara.


Petrus du Preez, a local farmer in the Patensie area near the Kouga Dam, said, "The irrigation region around Hankey and Patensie is also facing massive problems‚ because of the shallow level of water in Kouga Dam – sitting at about 7% of capacity. The farmers in Patensie‚ Hankey‚ and from the agricultural side took drastic measures to survive. There is no alternative supply except for a small percentage of strong borehole water supplies".

The farmers are hoping for some rain as there is no plan for their crops and livestock if day zero should arrive.

The Eastern Cape Water restrictions are there for a reason. Although the people of the Eastern Cape are in dire times, we hope for rain in the future, so the community and local farmers have means of sustaining themselves and their families.