Rainfall across South Africa has provided some relief after a period of hot and extremely dry conditions, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of the Eastern Cape.
The rainfall will benefit the coastal belt from the Dolphin Coast in KwaZulu-Natal to the northern part of the Eastern Cape; however, until the rains are spread throughout the provinces, it will be some time before the back of the drought is broken in the region, the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) said on Wednesday.
Gauteng also experienced rains that made marginal difference to the dam levels and stabilised the Vaal dam at 69.7%.
“As a result of the current downpours, dam levels are expected to improve slightly by the end of the week,” the department said in an update.
South Africa’s current average dam level is 60.2%, a 10% decline on the same period last year.
The South African Weather Services and departmental scientists predicted an above-average rainfall in most parts of the country between December and February 2020.
However, the latest report on dam levels by the department suggests that the country’s water situation continues to deteriorate at the rate of losing 1% of water a week owing to the heatwave.
The water levels in Limpopo, the Eastern Cape and the North West dropped below 50% last week and, until the recent rains, KwaZulu-Natal was on the verge of becoming the fourth province to have low water levels in its reservoirs.
The Joe Gqabi district, where eight towns under its jurisdiction have become dry, has joined 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 comments.
The Tzaneen dam dropped to 5.7% in the past week, while the nearby Giyani dam is almost empty at 2.8%.
“An urgent meeting between the DWS and the provincial Cooperative Governance, Human Settlement and Traditional Affairs department will take place this Thursday to discuss ways of averting the looming disaster in the region.”