Dam levels rise, but water scarcity remains worrisome
Crucial to water availability in Gauteng is expected rain in Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga, whose rivers provide inflows for the province's water system.
Vaal Dam. Picture: Randburg Sun
Vaal Dam. Picture: Randburg Sun
Subscribe to continue reading this article
and support trusted South African journalism
Recent weeks have seen water levels rise in Gauteng dams, according to the department of water and sanitation. But this may not last because of less-than-expected rain in the first few weeks of the year.
Department spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said heavy rain over the festive season and the reopening of a tunnel connecting the province to the Lesotho Highlands Water Project was to thank for higher dam levels.
But he said water scarcity was still a concern.
“Because of the rain we have enjoyed over the past couple of weeks, there have been good inflows into the Integrated Vaal River System. A week ago, this system was at 69.9%,” said Ratau.
“Unfortunately, the rains have since tapered off, so we do not expect much of a rise, but we expect it to remain at 69-70%. This is because of the reduced inflows. The Vaal Dam is about 51% or so and we do not expect that the coming rains will make much difference.”
The latest data showed that Sterkfontein Dam was still at 91.3% while the Grootvlei and Bloemhof Dams were at 101.9% and 70.9% of capacity respectively.
Ratau said the reopening of the channel from the Lesotho Highlands Water Project had had a positive effect on water supply in Gauteng. The province started receiving water from this system on 1 December last year. This channel normally provides 27% of the water in the Integrated Vaal Water System.
On 3 December, the Gauteng Weather Service announced the Vaal Dam had dipped below 40%, despite heavy rain in late November. The City of Joburg imposed stage two water restrictions after a heatwave hiked demand, but later reduced it to level one water restrictions, which are still in place.
Similar restrictions were imposed by the City of Tshwane.
Crucial to water availability in the province is expected rain in Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga, whose rivers provided inflows for Gauteng’s water system.
Meanwhile, Chris Hani district municipality has imposed water rationing as dam levels continue to drop in Queenstown in the Eastern Cape due to a lack of rain.
The department of human settlements, water and sanitation said the Eastern Cape was one of the provinces affected by the drought, particularly Butterworth and surrounding areas in the Amathole district municipality.
Ratau said that there was no water at the Kei River bridge.
“The department released water from the Wriggleswade Dam in the past week and it is expected to take about two weeks to reach Kei Bridge, for water tankers to receive water from the treatment plant there.”
He added that boreholes drilled in the area did not yield much.
“In the absence of rain and runoff and recharge of water sources, even the ground water runs out.
“With regards to the situation around Queenstown, the dam level continue to drop, also due to a lack of rain.
“The challenge of the drought can only be permanently resolved by rain.
“In the meantime, as the provincial government did declare a provincial drought, the process to finalise the type and amount of assistance rests with the national disaster management centre, made up of a number of departments.”
Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Lindiwe Sisulu urged people to act responsibly: “This is not a small matter and government, at the level of Cabinet, continues to be seized with the need to alleviate the plight that emanates from this unfortunate act of nature.”
Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits