The Nelson Mandela Bay council has voted in favour of implementing the first phase of water restrictions for residents, after a heated debate on Wednesday.
The water restrictions were tabled by new mayoral committee member Annette Lovemore, who asked that the matter be approved as a point of urgency, as the city had already exceeded its allocated water usage.
The announcement of water restrictions comes after the Gamtoos Irrigation Board said that the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality had exceeded its water supply quota from the Kouga Dam because it had not adhered to government-gazetted water restrictions.
The Gamtoos Irrigation Board said the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality’s failure to adhere to gazetted restrictions, coupled with the rapidly declining levels of dam levels, was raising alarm amongst farmers in the area, who were dependent on the water for irrigation.
Mayor Athol Trollip said the City had been aware that its total consumption was too high, but that the previous government had done little to address the issue, despite warnings for more than a year.
ANC council members, however, tried to have the motion blocked, saying the process was irregular and that it should be referred to a committee for discussion, which would have delayed the matter until at least October.
Trollip pointed out that there were no punitive steps in the restrictions being set out, that it would not impact on individuals, apart from asking them to conserve water, and that the proposal – which seeks to prevent a situation where the city runs out of water – was proactive and urgent.
“I don’t want to ask this council to vote on this, but if I have to, I will put the recommendation to council that we can vote on it and we will win it,” he said.
Eventually, the matter was put to the vote and was passed with 61 in favour of the restrictions and 48 against. There were seven abstentions.
“The municipality has been using approximately 60 million litres more than its allocation daily and has not taken action to address this. The minister of water and sanitation gazetted a notice containing a requirement for our usage to be decreased by 15% in April this year,” Lovemore said.
“This notice was gazetted only after she and her department had negotiated and pleaded with the metro, asking that the usage be decreased without her having to resort to publishing a legal notice requiring the cuts.”
Lovemore said the restrictions would include the immediate ban on using hosepipes to water gardens and wash cars, and a request for residents to curb their general water usage by 15% by October.
“The full list of prohibited activities will be made widely known. It is important to remember that failure to act in accordance with the restrictions is a criminal offence, and could result in legal action,” she said.
“Businesses (and particularly our large water users) are being urged to play their role as prominent Nelson Mandela Bay citizens and lead by example.
“If water consumption does not decrease by 15% within two months, council will be forced to consider punitive measures. These could include increased water tariffs for usage above certain limits, and the requirement that water tanks be installed for all new houses,” she said.
Lovemore also acknowledged that the municipality would have to play its part.
“We operate in a water-scarce environment. We are pleased to say that finally, in our newly constituted council, we are acting responsibly and taking practical steps to address our water shortages,” she said.
“We know that the municipality must play its part too. The municipality has a serious problem with respect to water losses. The solutions are not short-term and are multi-pronged. We expect to release full details of our strategy within the next fortnight. Already, advertisements for the employment of ten additional plumbers have been published,” she said.