DWS urges caution over water use as drought drags on
No good news from our Department of Water and Sanitation. The drought in SA drags on, and even with good rain, the
effects may last for years to come.
Newspaper headlines today also talk about our water crisis. This article from Engineering News:
No relief is in sight in one of the worst prolonged droughts that South Africa has ever grappled with, signalling continued – and intensified – water restrictions, as the country’s dams fall to their lowest levels in years.
The inter-Ministerial Committee on drought on Thursday warned that water use needed to be curtailed as there was no guarantee that there would be sufficient rain during the coming summer season to ease the water-stresses.
All nine provinces were hit by the severe drought in “all its forms – meteorological, hydrological, socioeconomic and agricultural,” said Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affair Minister and drought task team chairperson Des van Rooyen on Thursday.
“When we briefed the country last year, the national dam levels were estimated at 64.3% of our normal full supply. Since then, we have seen a drop in our storage quantity to 53% as at September 5,” he told media during a briefing.
This meant that strict implementation of drought operating rules, including restrictions from the larger supply
systems, are currently being effected at all dams, with the decline in water levels necessitating the imposition
of water restrictions on the public in a number of provinces.
The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) on Wednesday intensified the water restrictions to “stretch” the available water supplies, with 9 of the 12 water supply systems under restriction.
“The drought is far from over and, even with normal rainy seasons, it will take a number of years for the system to stabilise,” it said in a statement.
However, government stopped short of declaring the drought a national disaster, with Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane saying the impact of the drought could be eased through mindset and behavioural changes, enhancing response times to water leakages and the improvement of the design of water infrastructure to adapt to the realities of climate change.
South Africans currently consumed water well above global averages, coming in at 280 ℓ/d per person – compared with the global average of 175 ℓ/d per person – with some 40% of the household water allocations being used for irrigation and gardening services.
“We do have a possibility of living and making means with the little that we do have if we change our behavioural patterns,” she said.
Meanwhile, government is intensifying long- and short-term drought relief interventions to distressed areas, in addition to ongoing monitoring and evaluation efforts.
Hundreds of millions of rands had been injected into drought relief interventions, including water conservation and demand measures, such as water saving devices and water restrictors.
Motorised water tankers had been deployed and the water mix had increased to enhance the use of groundwater.
Further, aid had been targeted at struggling farmers, with infrastructure projects, such as drilling and equipping of boreholes, construction of stock dams and distribution of animal feed to farmers, along with support focused on livestock.
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