Show­ers ‘won’t raise dam lev­els’ in third dry year

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - NEWS - TANYA PETERSEN

THREE years of low rain­fall have pulled Cape Town and the rest of the prov­ince into one of its worst droughts. How­ever, this week will bring some show­ers, but not enough to bring dam lev­els up to ca­pac­ity.

The lat­est lev­els for the prov­ince are at 35.8 per­cent, while the city’s dams stand at 37.5 per­cent. These fig­ures are sig­nif­i­cantly lower in com­par­i­son to the same time last year.

Thabisile Ntleko, fore­caster for the South African Weather Ser­vice, said a cold front was ex­pected to pass through to­mor­row morn­ing. It would bring rain and show­ers for most of the prov­ince, but the Cen­tral Ka­roo might be ex­cluded.

“Rain­fall amounts range be­tween five and 10mm, reach­ing 20-25mm in places over the south-western parts of the prov­ince. Tem­per­a­tures are ex­pected to drop sig­nif­i­cantly for Mon­day, reach­ing mid to high teens over most of the prov­ince.”

She said there was a chance of snow on the western moun­tains from to­mor­row evening.

“Strong winds and very rough sea con­di­tions are pos­si­ble along the south-west and south coast from Mon­day evening into Tues­day.

“Light rain might still be ex­pected for the south-west and the south coast for Tues­day, mainly in the morn­ing.”

She said records showed that, since 2015, be­low av­er­age an­nual rain­fall had been recorded for the prov­ince. This year had been the low­est so far.

UCT cli­mate sci­en­tist Peter Johnston said a pos­si­ble rea­son for this was that cur­rent tem­per­a­tures were in­creas­ing at a rate not seen in years.

This, he said, was due to ex­ces­sive amounts of car­bon diox­ide in the at­mos­phere, which led to global warm­ing and cli­mate change. He ex­plained that it was “a nat­u­ral phenomenon”.

This year marked the third dry year for the city, Johnston added. The sta­tis­ti­cal odds of this oc­cur­ring were low and “un­ex­pected” and “this drought ... is worse than any other we have ex­pe­ri­enced”.

He said there would be rain in the fu­ture, but whether it would be enough to re­cover from the drought was the real ques­tion. If it rained nor­mally next year, it should rain in April, May and June, which did not hap­pen this year.

If it did not rain next year, we would be “in a very dan­ger­ous and sad sit­u­a­tion”.

“At this point there is no in­di­ca­tion that it is go­ing to be a dry win­ter.”

Johnston said the sit­u­a­tion could never have been pre­dicted, but af­ter two dry years, you have to pre­pare for the worst case sce­nario.

He be­lieved that de­sali­na­tion would help with the wa­ter short­age, but would “have a mas­sive im­pact on bud­gets”.

De­sali­na­tion plants are part of the city’s plans to al­le­vi­ate the wa­ter short­age.

Xanthea Lim­berg, May­oral Com­mit­tee mem­ber for In­for­mal set­tle­ments,Wa­ter and Waste ser­vices and En­ergy, said all com­mis­sioned wa­ter would come into the sys­tem at dif­fer­ent times and “we are work­ing to pro­vide about 250 mil­lion litres per day by Fe­bru­ary 2018”.

“Ten­ders for small-scale de­sali­na­tion plants at Hout Bay, Granger Bay, Dido Val­ley, Mon­wabisi and Strand­fontein have been re­leased ... Pro­cure­ment for aquifer ab­strac­tion is ex­pected to com­mence in the next two weeks,” she said.

Lim­berg added that there were no fur­ther plans for wa­ter re­stric­tions, but “the city will con­stantly en­hance mea­sures within the bounds of Level 5 re­stric­tions to im­prove com­pli­ance by house­holds that have not re­duced con­sump­tion.”

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