Dam lev­els are lower than last sum­mer

Buf­fer against wa­ter cri­sis re­duced

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - WENDYL MARTIN

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”.

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