South Africa: Department Looks At Measures to Counter Water Scarcity in Limpopo

13 November 2019

The Department of Water and Sanitation will today hold an urgent meeting with the Limpopo Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs Department to discuss ways of averting the looming disaster in the region due to dry weather conditions.

The current hot temperatures in major parts of the country have plunged Limpopo, the Eastern Cape and North West to water stress levels as their dam levels dropped to 50% last week.

Until the recent rains, KwaZulu-Natal was on the verge of becoming the fourth province to have low water levels in its reservoirs.

The department's latest report on dam levels suggests that the country's water situation continues to deteriorate at a rate of 1% per week due to the searing heatwave.

The report indicated that Tzaneen Dam in Mopani district has now dropped to 5.7% in the past week.

"The citrus fruit town is headed for serious water shortages until some heavy rains start coming down in the next 10 days or so. Giyani, which is a stones throw away from Tzaneen, is almost in a desperate situation as Middel-Letaba, which supplies the town, is almost empty at 2.8%," the department said.

The heavy rains in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of the Eastern Cape this week appeared to spell an end to the dry season following hot and extremely dry conditions in most regions of the country.

The rains were accompanied by a tornado that claimed the lives of three people in New Hanover in the Natal-Midlands.

Gauteng has also experienced solid rains that have made a difference to the dam levels, stabilising the Vaal Dam to 69.7%. As a result of the current downpours, dam levels are expected to improve slightly by the end of the week.

South Africa's current average dam level is 60.2%, a 10% drop compared to the same period last year.

The coastal belt of the Eastern Cape is set to benefit from the current rainfall, which spreads from the Dolphin Coast in KwaZulu-Natal to the northern part of the Eastern Cape.

However, the department warned that until the rains are spread throughout the province, it will be some time before the back of the drought is broken in the province.

Meanwhile, the situation has not changed in the Joe Gqabi District, where eight towns under its jurisdiction have become dry.

"The district is the latest to join the drought-stricken areas in the Eastern Cape. The Orange River, which runs through Aliwal North, Ugie, Mount Fletcher, Mclean, Lady Grey, Barkly East and Burgersdorp, is completely dry and most of the affected towns now rely on groundwater and water tankering.

"Last week, the provincial government declared the water situation in the province a provincial disaster, which means that water funding is now prioritised to avert a total catastrophe," the department said.

The South African Weather Service and departmental scientists predicted an above-average rainfall in most parts of the country between December and February 2020.

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