Cape Town — The Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Drought says government is intensifying relief efforts to those distressed areas hardest hit by water shortages, as dam levels continue to dip.
Leading a media briefing in Cape Town on Thursday, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des Van Rooyen said the severity of the drought situation has necessitated the imposition of water restrictions in a number of provinces.
The briefing held by the IMC was aimed at updating the nation on the status of the drought, as well as interventions that are currently being implemented as the dry season continues to grip communities and farmers as well as impact negatively on food prices.
When the IMC briefed the media last year, dam levels stood at an estimated 64.3%. Since then, the storage quantity has dried up and levels have dropped to 53.0% as at 5 September 2016.
"As our country continues to battle the effects of this natural phenomenon, we are mindful of the hardships that are experienced by our people in the most affected areas. We are intensifying our relief interventions to distressed areas.
"Long and short-term interventions are being implemented while monitoring and evaluation of all efforts is on-going," he said.
With the effects of the climate change being the main source of the current drought situation, the Minister said the long range weather forecast shows a below normal rainfall, meaning that little relief is anticipated in the coming months.
Interventions being implemented
The Minister said as part of on-going interventions, the Department of Water and Sanitation has deployed 63, 18 000 litre motorised water tankers. To date, some 8 million litres of water has been delivered to approximately 49 200 people in the North West, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and the Eastern Cape.
Water conservation and demand measures are being intensified, with 16 000 water restrictors being installed in a number of areas in the Ethekwini, Ugu, Zululand and Unzinyathi Districts.
The "Drop a Block" water saving device was introduced across the country with nearly 103 000 water saving devices installed in the Northern Cape alone.
"The strict implementation of drought operating rules are currently being effected at all dams and this includes restrictions from the larger supply systems.
"In addition, the Department of Water and Sanitation is also increasing water mix, especially ground water utilisation and more than 7 487 boreholes are now operational across the country," he said.
To date, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the provincial departments of agriculture have allocated R268 million towards drought relief from the reprioritised Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme.
The Minister said provinces had availed R173 million to assist farmers with animal feed and stock.
"Infrastructure projects such as drilling and equipping boreholes, distribution of construction of stock dams and distribution of feeds to farmers has been undertaken.
"An additional amount of R198 million has been made available by provinces to assist small holder farmers during the 2016/ 17 financial year in order to continue with provision of livestock feed and stock watering facilities," he said.
Innovative solutions that were on the table include the Agricultural Research Council introducing a drought tolerant maize seed, which is expected to contribute to efforts of minimising the effects of drought on the production of maize.
Minister calls on citizens to use water sparingly
Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane said the picture of dam levels across the country, including the depleted Vaal River/ Vaal Dam system which currently stands at 54%, means that there must be a behavioural change in the water use patterns by all citizens.
She said this means people need to use buckets to wash their cars, they must switch off their sprinklers and luxuries such as Jacuzzis.
To date, nine of the country's 12 water supply systems are implementing restrictions and Gauteng is no exception.
"We should not over exploit that what we have, we must manage the use of that which is at our disposal.
"We have come to realise that the user patterns in South Africa show that currently, the average water consumption of water per person per day in the Rand Water supply area is 280 litres per person per day.
"This is a lot more than the legislated 25 litres per person per day. But strikingly glaring is that 40% of that that is allocated for use in terms of household and stuff goes towards irrigation, gardening services and all those things. It is not for cooking, it is not for drinking. Worldwide, the average is 175 litres," said the Minister.