Pour outlook: the rain has come but SA’s ‘not out of the woods’
The department of water and sanitation says surface water indicators are improving, but there is a way to go
Once ravaged by drought, KwaZulu-Natal is now in a healthier place when it comes to water supply.
But water authorities warned at a department of water and sanitation media briefing in Durban on Wednesday that the province is “not out of the woods yet”.
Parts of the province experienced flash floods over the weekend, resulting in extensive damage to homes and roads.
Three people died and two others are still missing.
While the Western Cape also had its fair share of rainfall recently, its government is not rejoicing just yet, saying that “it’s too early to know whether the drought has broken”.
In terms of its water situation, 2014 was one of the worst years for KwaZulu-Natal, when it recorded its lowest rainfall in a few hundred years.
Ashley Starkey, chief director of the KZN provincial department, painted a more hopeful picture, saying that precipitation had improved in the past 36 months.
“We are now about 9% better ... Surface water indicators reached really low levels in 2016. There has been an improvement but we are not out of woods.”
Water restrictions for areas receiving water from the Umgeni system had been lifted.
“We need to find solutions, within the climate change we are experiencing, as to how we maintain and sustain human development.
“That’s why we are seeking alternative water sources and technologies, as we are beginning to realise that the catchment areas are decaying while the rains are no longer coming as predictably as they used to be ...
“Going forward, climate change might get worse so that there is a need for alternative sources and using desalination wherever possible, as well as water re-use.
“It is becoming a critical success factor for us to sustain the future supply of water through re-use.”
James-Brent-Styan, Western Cape local government department spokesperson, said: “We have seen some very good early winter rainfall that has fallen across large parts of the Western Cape, including the drought-afflicted Karoo. We do believe this is a good indication, but it is no guarantee and predictions are quite unpredictable.”
The drought continued to affect regions in the Karoo and was crippling agriculture.
“The department of agriculture in the province has been providing millions in drought relief, largely in the form of fodder to feed animals, to farmers in the affected region.
“This work continues despite the good rainfall. It is too early to know if the drought has been broken. At this stage it has not.
“Levels of dams in the region are still below 20% on average. The average dam level in the Western Cape as a whole, as of Monday, was 39.5%,” said Styan.