South Africa water woes far from over…
South Africa will have to wait until May 2017 to find out if the current water restrictions gripping its provinces will be lifted, following a period of rain, particularly in the Gauteng region. The Southern African region has been battling inadequate rains and a resulting drought that shows no signs of letting up.
As a result, water restrictions were introduced in all provinces in 2016. Gauteng’s metropolitan municipalities have had to ration water supplies while being forced to make do with 15% less water from water supplier, Rand Water. In mid-January, the Department of Water and Sanitation said that, while the Vaal River System has improved tremendously since September 2016, levels must reach 70% before Gauteng is out of the woods, in the short term. While levels have been rising, with the system reaching 52% in early January, the Department’s Deputy Director Trevor Balzer, during a visit to the Vaal Dam in Midvaal with the media, said that the Vaal catchment areas will need another ten heavy rainfalls before the supply can be considered secure.
The Vaal River System consists of 14 dams which supply three provinces (which??) with water. It receives much of its water from the Lesotho Highlands via the Wilge River. Lesotho has also announced an improvement in its water levels thanks to recent heavy rainfall but, like South Africa, has set a safe capacity target of 70%.
Balzer has warned that, while the water levels have been rising, we should not become complacent. “We not out of the woods with regards to our current water levels. We have 15% restrictions for domestic water use, 20% in place for agriculture and everyone has to make an effort to save water wherever we use it, whether it’s in our homes, at the workplace, in our factories,” he said.
Gauteng has implemented level 2 water restrictions which mean that consumers are not allowed to do the following:
- Water your garden between 6am and 6pm.
- Use a hosepipe at any time of the day.
- Fill your swimming pool with municipal water
It, however, is not all gloomy. Blazer did applaud Gauteng’s big metros which he said have been saving the necessary quantities required by Rand Water.
In the Western Cape, however, the water crisis is worsening. Balzer believes it will take a long time before water restrictions are lifted there. Authorities in Cape Town have been clamping down hard on wasteful consumers and recently issued a R2,000 fine to a man who was caught hosing his pavement. The man was the only one issued with a fine during the City of Cape Town’s water blitz, at the beginning of January.
Cape Town officials have said that the policing of the water crisis have proven difficult and have called on residents to report on the misuse of water but, in the time since the implementation of water restrictions, 383 notices of contraventions and 225 notices to appear in court had been issued.
Cape Town has now escalated its water restrictions to level 3B. This means that using a hosepipe is forbidden and beautification (watering gardens and lawns) may only take place on Tuesdays for one hour.
A lack of water has a significant impact on food security in various ways including: …….
With the rainfall challenges we had in 2016, 2017 is looking slightly better. Paul Makube, Senior Agricultural Economist at First National Bank (FNB) NB said that they anticipate that prices will moderate now in 2017 as the new season production outlook improves with the rains across the producing areas.
“Overall, 2017 has started off well, with good rainfall in some parts of the country. The year ahead will still be trying, but the silver lining is that we are starting to see some relief from the recent rains and the sector is slowly stabilising,” Makube said.
According to Jannie de Villiers, CEO of Grain SA, South Africans have learned a number of valuable lessons from the drought, with the single most important one being that the country’s farmers have the ability to overcome challenges.
The future is will be determined by how well we – whether food producers, government, consumers, business or industry – alter our water usage habits as it, increasingly becomes a scarce and precious resource. In the short term, 2017 looks to be a year of recovery and change but sustainable saving is absolutely necessary.
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