Lesotho Highlands Water Project tunnel to be refilled

20th November 2019 By: Natasha Odendaal - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

After a two-month shutdown for inspections and maintenance work, the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) tunnel is being replenished with water, the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) announced on Wednesday.

In October, the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority, in conjunction with the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority, successfully shut down and drained the LHWP water transfer and delivery tunnel and associated systems.

“The refill of the tunnel, which is well within schedule, follows the completion of all the repairs and installation of equipment and will pave the way for the transfer of water from Lesotho on December 1,” the department said in a statement.

The LHWP augments the water resources in the Integrated Vaal River System (IVRS), which provides water to Rand Water, Sasol, Eskom and a large number of smaller users.

The planned shutdown period was from October 1 to November 30, with no water transfers made to the IVRS during this period.

The last shutdown for maintenance was conducted in 2012.

“Water users are still requested to work cooperatively with the department by ensuring that they use water sparingly,” the DWS said.

This emerges as South Africa’s average dam levels continue to decline, despite the recent rainfall.

The department’s weekly dam levels report reveals a consistent week-on-week decline in water levels, with the national water storage down to 58.7% this week from 59.6% last week.

“This is a far cry from the 69.4% that was recorded during the same period last year,” the DWS noted.

Despite the heavy rainfall experienced in KwaZulu-Natal, the provincial water storage only increased from 52.3% last week to 53% this week.

In Gauteng, rainfall contributed to a vastly improved overall provincial dam level of 90.6% this week, from 85.3% last week. At the same time last year, the provincial dam levels were at 96.4%.

However, the Vaal dam experienced a significant decline from 46.2% last week to 42.6% this week.

Limpopo’s average dam levels are also declining, as dam levels contract to 48.2% this week.

The dams supplying water to Moutse have dried up, with 10 000 litre water tanks dispatched to the area as a short-term measure.

Similarly, the drought-stricken Eastern Cape’s average dam levels have remained at 48.8% week-on-week, compared with 62.1% during the same period last year.

“Other provinces experiencing a decline in water levels include the Free State at 68% from last week’s 70%. Mpumalanga water storage capacity have decreased from last week’s 56.3% to 55.9% this week. The Northern Cape sees a drop to 71.5% from 72.1%,” the DWS pointed out.

Western Cape declined slightly from 66.5% last week to 66.3% this week, while the North West is at 51.6% from 50.4% last week.