Despite fears that South Africa is heading towards a major water shortage, Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Lindiwe Sisulu said there was no need for panic if South Africans used water sparingly ahead of the normal summer rainfall.
Sisulu said the availability of water was in the hands of its consumers and they should reduce their consumption to acceptable levels.
Sisulu cited Climate Change scientists who projected above normal (heavy) rains between the months of December 2019 and February 2020, with localised flooding during this time also predicted.
The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) said South Africa received 450-millitres of rain a year, which is half the global rainfall average.
In the last two weeks, dam levels have plummeted in Limpopo, the Eastern Cape and North West, owing to high temperatures.
“Eastern Cape and North West dropped its dam levels below 50% a few days after Limpopo plunged to 49.8% last week. KwaZulu-Natal at 52.7% is likely to join the fray soon with parts of the province already experiencing severe conditions,” the Department warned.
The Joe Gqabi district, with eight towns under its jurisdiction, 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 tankers.
Last week the provincial government declared the water situation in the province a disaster, which means that water funding is now prioritised to avert a total catastrophe.
Limpopo’s dam levels continued on a downward spiral, with Tzaneen dam in the Mopani district dropping to 5.9%. Middel Letaba which supplies Greater Giyani, is virtually empty at 3%.
“Given this desperate situation in the citrus fruit town, it is a matter of time before severe water restrictions, including abstraction for irrigation, are introduced,” said the DWS.
Parts of KwaZulu-Natal are also experiencing severely dry conditions.
The Ugu district on the South Coast is distressed, with the small town of Harding the hardest hit. The local dam has virtually dried up and residents are now dependent on water tankers and groundwater.
Other towns that are experiencing water challenges are Mahlabathini, Nongoma and Ulundi in the hinterland of Zululand.