Wake up, Gauteng, or you’ll end up like Cape Town
Forget the okay dam levels, the current heatwave and lack of rain pose a serious threat, say experts
Although the Vaal Dam is sitting comfortably at more than 80%, the current heatwave in the country calls for caution on how Gauteng residents use their water.
The dam is the main water supplier to Rand Water, which supplies municipalities.
Department of water and sanitation spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said the Vaal Dam levels are “comfortable” for this time of the year.
But he said the scorching heat poses a threat to water levels at dams in Gauteng. “When we experience high temperatures, as we saw over the past week, it means evaporation and consumption levels also increase, which could lead to a drastic drop in levels in our dams.”
He said the department was concerned about the lack of rain which usually fell across the country at this time of the year.
SA Weather Service forecaster Mbavhi Maliage said more rain is expected this week, albeit just “isolated showers”.
She also said the weather service was expecting above-normal temperatures throughout summer, which could result in more frequent heatwaves and extremely hot conditions.
They were “expecting above-normal rainfall in the early summer, but below-normal rainfall mid to late summer”.
In 2017, flash floods and heavy downpours caused havoc in most parts of Gauteng, leaving sinkholes in roads and damage to some houses. Ratau said water restrictions were lifted in most parts of Gauteng, with the exception of metropolitan areas. Although these restrictions were minimal, at level 1.
At this level the watering of gardens is not allowed between 6am and 6pm in summer (September 1 to March 31), while washing paved areas and driveways using hose pipes is also not allowed.
Earlier this year Rand Water warned the City of Tshwane that the abstraction of water from the Vaal Dam exceeded the licence limit determined by the national department of water and sanitation.
Tshwane’s MMC for utility services Darryl Moss said that despite the city’s big campaigns to make people aware of the water situation, residents in the capital are not cooperating when it comes to adhering to water restrictions. “People are not thinking when it comes to how they use water. They think that because water is coming out of their taps it will always be there, and unfortunately that is not the case,” Moss said. Areas like Centurion, Pretoria West, Olievenhoutbosch, Mabopane and Ga-Rankuwa have the highest consumption, he added. Moss said if Tshwane residents did not change their consumption habits soon the city might have to raise its water restriction level. The city is looking at fining those who don’t comply. “People need to understand we are in a serious water situation. If we don’t start saving water now, we will end up where Cape Town was. We don’t have water to spare.”
Rand Water began to place a limit on its water supply to municipalities in order to stay within permissible limits.
Rand Water spokesperson Justice Mohale said they continuously monitor water channelled to municipalities to prevent reservoirs running dry.
“When we see that consumption is too high in municipalities we reduce the flow of water to them because we don’t want our system to be depleted completely,” Mohale said. He said that should their system be depleted it might take up to two days to have them back running fully, supplying municipalities.
“I always tell people that it’s better to have some water trickling in on your tap than to have no water at all,” Mohale said. He also said it was time South Africans changed their water-use habits because the country doesn’t have water. “72% of water in our country, especially Gauteng, is from Lesotho. That says a lot. People need to learn.”
Despite the reasonably good dam levels in Gauteng‚ Ratau said the department urged people in the province and across the country to save since SA is a water-scarce country.
Water-saving tips Do not leave taps dripping;
Wash your car on the grass. This will water your lawn at the same time;
Use a watering can instead of a hose pipe;
Shorten your showering time;
Use a glass of water to rinse when brushing your teeth;
Take shallow baths. Avoid filling the bath to a depth greater than 100mm;
Reuse water for the garden or pot plants.