Dam levels remain low despite sporadic rains

Cape Town – The Department of Water and Sanitation says the country’s latest dam levels remain low despite the sporadic rainfalls and isolated thunderstorms experienced in some parts of the country last week.

Trevor Balzer, a Deputy Director General at the department, said this when he briefed the Portfolio Committee tasked with overseeing the departments that are collaborating in dealing with drought relief efforts.

The department is one of several departments responsible for offering assistance to provinces that have been hardest-hit by the country’s worst drought in several years.

“We monitor all our major dams across the country on a weekly basis [using] fairly real-time information… Just to give you an indication of where we are this week, the current dam levels are standing at 53%, only a 0.2% increase in terms of week-on-week, and that is as a result of the rains we had last week.

“… Those sporadic rains that we had and the high intensity thunderstorms don’t add a lot to our dam capacity,” Balzer said.

The Deputy Director General said the current levels were quite low compared to last year’s dam storage, which stood at 79.5%.

According to the weekly report, as of 14 March, all provinces showed slight increases in dam levels, with the exception of the Free State and the Western Cape, which have decreased.

In the Free State, the Gariep Dam stood at 52.6%, which was a 1.3% decrease due to the fact that water from the source was used by Eskom to generate power.

The Western Cape dam storage levels stood at 34.7% and according to the report, the levels were driven down by dams in the winter rainfall area. The Voelvlei Dam is of particular concern at 20.8%.

Hazelmere Dam in KwaZulu-Natal stood at 34.3%, and the 50% water restrictions are set to remain in force.

The Vaal Dam levels in Gauteng decreased by 0.6% to 48%, while the Sterkfontein Dam increased slightly by 0.2% to 88.3%. Katse Dam saw its volumes increasing by 1.9% to 65.7%.

Balzer said it could take more than three years for dam capacity levels to recover from the current drought.

Meanwhile, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said during a media briefing last week that the Department of Water and Sanitation has reprioritised R502 million to deliver water, protect springs and refurbish boreholes in response to drought conditions.

According to Balzer, 76% - or R379.6 million - of that amount has already been spent to date.

The department spent R23.9 million on boreholes, R104 million on refurbishments and upgrades, and R30.9 million on water tanker rental, amongst others.

- SAnews.gov.za