Dam levels are lower than last summer
Buffer against water crisis reduced
DAMS are about 20 percent lower than at this time last year, which signals potential shortage in the upcoming dry summer months.
But the provincial government has said water supplies in the Western Cape have not yet reached a critical level.
Figures disclosed yesterday by the provincial department of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning show that, overall, dams in the Western Cape are 70.08 percent full. This time last year the comparative figure was 90.34 percent.
Worst affected are dams in the Berg River catchment area, where capacity is at 69.17 percent, down from last year’s 98.91 percent, and the Gouritz River catchment area where dams are at 63.42 percent full, down from 75.15 percent last year.
Dams in the largest catchment area, the Breede River, are 70.61 percent full.
But MEC Anton Bredell said water levels are still fine.
“The present levels of dams across the Western Cape that supply water for domestic use are still in a good state, with only some minor risks of failure. The ultimate responsibility to ensure water for domestic and industrial water use lies with the water services authorities (municipalities) as per their constitutional mandates,” he said.
His department was collaborating fully with the water and sanitation department, continually monitoring the situation to ensure any necessary restrictions were imposed in time, if necessary, to avert any potential crisis.
“In the Western Cape we believe preparedness is key to addressing any potential crisis,” he said.
Two areas, one on the West Coast and the other in the central Karoo, have had water restrictions implemented.
“No disaster areas have been declared in the province to date. Dam levels across the province are on average around 70 to 75 percent full. This is, however, much lower than in previous years and remains a concern given that we are facing the dry, warm months of December to Febru- ary,” Bredell said.
He said the Western Cape had shown decreasing rainfall over the past few years.
“Predictions show that rainfall will decrease further in the years to come. We must, therefore, use water wisely. And there is a lot we can do as citizens of the Western Cape. Pollution of water resources and water wastage, for example, are two areas of huge concern to us.
“These are areas where everyone can make a real difference by doing things differently and alerting us to problems speedily,” Bredell said.
Colin Deiner, head of provincial disaster relief management, said the Western Cape had a well- managed drought in 2010/11.
“The lessons we learnt and the experience gained is informing our current plans and strategies.”
They were working on forecasts and analysing trends to ensure the province was ready in the event of a declared disaster. “We are checking our contingencies and working hard on preparedness. If you are well prepared, the impact of any disaster is certainly much less severe.”
Meanwhile, the City of Cape Town has cautioned people to use water with care.
Ernest Sonnenberg, mayoral committee member for utility services, said: “Dam levels are currently lower than in previous years. Should residents do their bit to save water, there is sufficient supply in reserve to prevent the situation from becoming untenable.”
He warned lower rainfall in the catchment areas during winter had left the city with “much less of a buffer between us and a water crisis”.