Last year we entered December knowing that the Garden Route Dam had overflowed at its 25% capacity increase level. However, we then faced 17% plus increase in water used which placed enormous pressures on our treatment capacity, particularly on our 1950-era Old Water Works (“OWW”). During December-January there were often days where water usage exceeded treatment levels by 2-3ML per day which depleted the reservoirs. We also experienced numerous pipeline breakages resulting from flood damage to our network. In February, there were 2 weekends where purified water available in the main reservoirs was depleted to 2 hours’ supply!
Our appeals to the public to use water sparingly appeared to have no effect.
We took the decision to authorise spending on valves, meters and telemetry to improve management on the 1000km water network built over many decades. This expenditure has resulted in improved access to data and management of the network.
As we enter December 2022, we face further risks through increased water usage. Our rainfall during 2022 has been well below the annual average of 715mm. From July to November, the cumulative rainfall average is 300mm whereas in 2022 we have only had 117mm. The level of our Dam was only 51,88% last week with the hot months ahead. We have therefore imposed further water restrictions.
While the 3-year construction project for our 50% increase (or 20ML per day) in treatment capacity is underway, we also started to refurbish some modules of the OWW to be completed in the next few days. The 17% increase in usage from last year has effectively continued due to ongoing in-migration into George. The daily management of balancing treatment and usage levels has therefore been extremely stressful.
Based on booked accommodation levels, we are expecting an influx of holiday visitors in the coming weeks.
In addition, a 5ML per day containerised water treatment plant has been leased as a temporary solution. It is being installed over the next 2-3 weeks to provide additional treatment capacity over the coming peak season and to permit the further refurbishment on the OWW during 2023. Even when this plant is operational, there is a risk that water usage could exceed the availability of treated water.
Our appeal is that all households should immediately reduce water usage to no more than 15KL per month to adhere to the new water restrictions. At present, we only have 4-5 months’ supply of water left in our Dam.
Our usage has grown dramatically this past year and our residents now need to assist to conserve our water supplies. We desperately need rain to increase the level of our Dam. Please share this message widely to help save Water.
Ald L van Wyk
Executive Mayor of George