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Water and Sanitation on rainfall and dam levels in South Africa

13 Jan 2021

SA is in the grip of a potential wet season

South Africa is in the middle of a potential wet season as heavy rainfalls continue to fall over large parts of the country, making a significant improvement in the country’s water situation

Persistent rains have boosted the country’s dam levels remarkably as they rose from 69,7% to 72,2% in the past week. The figure represents a 13% improvement compared to the same period last year when it was recorded at 59,5%.

With more thunderstorms expected to fall in Gauteng, Free State and Eastern Cape in the next two days, the water situation is expected to improve drastically by this weekend.

The latest weekly report on dam levels by the Department of Water and Sanitation estimates the volume of water that is stored in reservoirs at 23 101,2 cubic metres (80%). In the past week levels in the Free State shot from 82,3% to 86,6%, thanks to the heavy downpours that drenched large parts of the province.

The good news is that Eastern Cape dams are filling up rapidly as the rains continue to pound the drought-prone province. According to the weekly report, the province’s dam levels increased from 51,7% to 52,5%. This is a seven percent improvement compared to the corresponding period last year when the dams stood at 46%.

At 98,9%, Northern Cape dam levels are on the verge of reaching full capacity after last week’s heavy rains. The figure reflects a huge improvement in the province’s water situation compared to the same period when the dam levels stood at 77,8%.

There are also heavy inflows from Namibia which have greatly influenced the levels within the Vaal and Orange River Systems. As such the DWS working with relevant stakeholders has issued warning for people around the Systems to be wary of rising levels, move livestock awa from the vicinity, as well as refrain from swimming and fishing in the waters. The reality is that the strength of the current cannot be gauged with the naked eye,

There has not been much improvement in Gauteng dams as they increased marginally from 96% to 96,4% this week. Bronkhorstspruit Dam in east Pretoria dropped from 91,5% last week to 90,8% this week, while Bon Accord in the north of the city shot from 105,4% to 139,3%. A summary report on the Water Management Authority indicates a four per percent improvement of the Vaal Major from 82,2% 86,9%.

The situation remained stable in Mpumalanga after the dam levels improved fractionally from 66,4% to 67% this week. Although the average dam level in the province runs at 55%, Maguga Dam on the border with Mozambique is particularly worrying as it plunged to 36,4% this week. However, Injaka Dam in Bushbuckridge increased from 51,8% to 5,32% this week.

Limpopo dams have stabilized somewhat at 59,9% while Mopani and Waterberg districts are battling with low levels. KwaZulu-Natal is a similar situation although the coastal belt has benefitted immensely from recent rains.

Western Cape dams have begun their downslide trend after the province reached its wet hydrological cycle of winter rains. The province’s dam levels dropped from 71% to 69,4% this week. However, the figure represents a huge improvement compared to the corresponding period last year when the levels were recorded at 59,5%. This was the period when the province was in the throes of the worst drought in a century. The Western Cape Water Supply System (WCWSS) continues its expected decline and is at 89,0%, slightly down from 90,6% from a week ago.

The biggest and most critical system in the country, namely the Integrated Vaal River System (IVRS)continues its encouraging recharge. This week it is at 73,5%, up from 70,1% in the previous week. Bloemhof Dam has now increased to 107,4% from last week’s 102,3%. As the iconic Vaal Dam has also sharply recovered and is now standing at 65,3% from last week’s 56,7%, much improved from 52,0% last year at the same time.

Despite the consistent rains however, the Department of Water and Sanitation urges South Africans to continue saving water as the country is not out of the woods yet.  

Sputnik Ratau
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