DAY ZERO LOOMS FOR THIRSTY BCM
'It is not only what the metro can do, but what residents should do to meet it halfway. We expect people to change their behaviour'
Most of Buffalo City Metro will have no water during the day on Thursday, possibly extending into Friday. This is because the city is working on crucial infrastructure in the face of a looming water crisis, with authorities saying the city is on the brink of the proverbial Day Zero.
The city has now moved to stage three water restrictions — just a month after the council approved stage two.
This is the second-last tier before reaching Day Zero, or stage five, anticipated to arrive in February unless the demand for water turns around.
And with thousands of holidaymakers expected to visit the metro, the demand for the natural resource is likely to exceed the supply.
City spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya said because councillors had approved water restrictions in various stages in October, there had been no need to seek approval from council to move to stage three.
While the water restrictions are mainly due to the severe drought, poor maintenance of infrastructure has exacerbated the situation.
Ngwenya said parts of the metro would be without water on Thursday, and possibly Friday, due to essential maintenance at the Umzonyana waterworks plant in Scenery Park.
Water supply was interrupted on Saturday in the Wilsonia industrial area between 6am and 6pm. The Dawn area was also affected as the metro was replacing water pipes.
Ngwenya said the next water interruption would take place on Thursday from 6am to 6pm. He said the maintenance of infrastructure was to an extent related to the lead-up to Day Zero.
“They are interrelated because the first thing we want to do is to ensure that our infrastructure is up to scratch,” he said.
He said Thursday’s maintenance would affect the greater East London area, including
Gonubie and Mdantsane. Between now and Thursday people should fill up tanks because there would be no water in the metro.
Ngwenya warned that the water interruption could spill over to early Friday, “due to the nature of the work”.
He called on residents to keep their taps closed throughout this time. Ngwenya said people should not panic, but warned that at the current water usage rate, Day Zero “looks inevitable” for the city.
Ngwenya said BCM was trying to avoid a total collapse of the water system.
With stage three retrictions, residents must use non-potable water for gardening. Watering or irrigation with municipal drinking water is only allowed before 9am or after 6pm, and for only 30 minutes.
Washing or hosing down hard surfaces such as pavements is forbidden and residents must have written permission from BCM to refill or empty their swimming pools.
Rainwater or greywater (dirty water without chemicals) must be used for flushing toilets.
Ngwenya called on residents to alert the municipality to water leaks and warned that they would soon clamp down on illegal water connections.
He also cautioned that ratepayers who used excessive amounts of water would be slapped with punitive tariffs.
“Residents who are taking people in should be mindful that during these holidays your bill — if you do not guard how they use water — will be higher, with ptunitive tariffs.
“People must be very vigilant by way of when and why they use water.
“We are trying by all means to avoid Day Zero, but at this stage it looks inevitable. For residents, we are going to be charging more for usage,” he said.
Ngwenya said they had targeted reducing water consumption by 25% via the stage two restrictions.
“But as you can see, if we’re moving to stage three it means that has not been successful.
“The issue here is not only what the metro can do, but what residents should do to meet the metro halfway. We expect people to change their behaviour,” he said.
“If the situation doesn’t change, by February we will be at Day Zero. Our dam levels are dropping at a very significant pace and the rains are not making a significant impact,” Ngwenya said.
The Eastern Cape government last month declared the entire province a disaster area and is expected to receive millions of rand for drought relief programmes.
The water interruption could spill over to early Friday due to the nature of the work