Steven Tau
2 minute read
9 Jan 2017
5:30 am

Drought still a concern despite recent rainfall

Steven Tau

'We had hoped for better rainfall during December but that did not happen due to a weakened La Nina system,' says government.

FILE PIC. Picture: Michel Bega

The recent rainfall that has been experienced over many parts of the country has not been enough to immediately address the drought situation, according to the water affairs department.

Speaking to The Citizen, department spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said they were hoping the heavy downpours experienced over the weekend would persist over coming months to help increase water resources. National dam levels are just over 50% and, according to Ratau, the department is hoping for anything above the 60% mark in time for the winter season.

“We had hoped for better rainfall during December but that did not happen due to a weakened La Nina system,” he said.

Towards the end of last year, the country was still going through a neutral phase in terms of the weather, which meant anything was possible, whether in the form of rain or excessive hot weather conditions.

Several parts of the country were also hit by a series of heatwaves that saw temperatures soaring, while most of the rain experienced was accompanied mainly by severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, which were experienced in Johannesburg’s Ennerdale as well as in Zeerust, North West, where President Jacob Zuma was delivering the keynote address on Reconciliation Day. Due to the hot and dry conditions, water levels at the Vaal Dam also reached alarming low levels of around 25% of capacity.

ALSO READ: Some good news as Vaal Dam slowly rises

Authorities were then prompted to commence with a replenishing exercise of the dam, which supplies water mainly to the province of Gauteng. The exercise, which saw water being released from Sterkfontein Dam, a storage dam just outside the town of Harrismith in the Free State, started on November 7 and was completed on December 22.

“The upsurge in the Vaal Dam’s water levels to 44.5% can be attributed to the water released from the Sterkfontein Dam and the rainfall that we have been experiencing over the last couple of months,” Ratau said. “With the past weekend’s rainfall, we are anticipating the levels at the Vaal Dam to increase.”

It is hoped that water levels at the Vaal Dam would be above the 50% mark at the end of the rainfall season. Water restrictions that were implemented by several municipalities which, among others, prevent residents from making use of hosepipes to wash their cars, paving areas or even watering their gardens between 6am and 6pm remain in place. Asked if there has been a reduction in water consumption, Ratau said they had been receiving a mixed bag of results in that regard.

“There are still those who continue to misuse water despite the appeals not to do so, while others have been playing their part and it is for this reason that we again call on residents to use water sparingly,” Ratau added.

Meanwhile, officials from the department will be visiting the Vaal Dam on Wednesday, when further updates on the country’s water situation will be revealed.

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