Cape Town dams continue to fall at unprecedented rates

With restrictions looming, Cape Town dams continue to fall at unprecedented rates.  This week shows a fall of 1.9%  The difference between this year and previous years should be noted. Cape Town Dams are nearly 30% lower than the average of the past years at this time.  In a year of higher than average rainfall consumers are drawing th dams down by more than 50%.  In a year of average rainfall, demand exceeds the recharge of the dams.

Things are a whole lot worse in most other provinces.  For example, the Orange River as it emerges from Lesotho , and reaches the first South African Town – Aliwal North, is completely dry!  DWA (Water Affairs) will need to release more than normal of the  precious little water in the Gariep Dam for farmers and the survival of what is left of the riverine ecology of the lower Orange River.  Although in slightly better condition is the Vanderkloof Dam, but this water will be needed by places like Upington far down river.

A dry Orange River needs some explaining by our authorities! 


The fault lies in the fact that the ITB (Inter Basin Transfer) – Katse Dame is removing too much water to deliver this water to the Vaal? 

By implementing severe restrictions and encouraging Gauteng water consumers to invest in alternative sources to augment their own supply would be appropriate? 

Rand Water would have said something to encourage the re-use of grey water, minimize toilet flushing to reduce demand and dramatically reduce effluent?

 After all if Professor Turton is correct when he says that two thirds of our river water is polluted, then a reduction of 90% of effluent reaching the sewerage treatment works would be desirable?  That is in fact the actual reduction in effluent if every household had systems to re-use and reduce! 

Surely too, the authorities should encourage consumers to harvest rainwater for household use?  This should be for bath, shower, hand basins, laundry and toilet flushing!

It is not OK that the Orange River should dry up and the guilty Municipalities on the Vaal System including Rand Water (beneficiaries of the IBT from the Orange to the Vaal) should get away Scot Free! 

It is not OK:

That the Department of Water Affairs, who are the curators of state owned water in South Africa, allow their own (wholly owned) subsidiary –  Rand Water off the hook.  It simply has to be largely their fault that this problem occurs.

That the same organizations viz. DWA and the Gauteng Municipality that are responsible for supply of water as well as the treatment of sewerage should balance their budgets with the income derived from the tariffs for sale of water and the treatment of sewerage effluent should allow untreated water to enter rivers that flow north (Limpopo) and south (Vaal). 

The fact that they don’t do their job leaves other municipalities downstream to clean up river water before delivering the water for potable purposes.  Ironic it is indeed that a feature should appear on Carte Blanche highlighting the plight of Rand Water to clear up the sewerage water in the Vaal Dam from small upstream municipalities including Standerton and Viiliers.  Does this not draw a parallel to DWA?  The Vaal dam is polluted!  But that pollution is nothing as compared with what flows from Gauteng north and south.

The  municipalities downstream of Gauteng are  unable to clean up this sewerage for potable purposes  This leads:

To the unnecessary proliferation of expensive bottled water. These bottles have their natural graveyard – the filling of waste sites and street litter.  But the real problems of plastic waste is in the sea.  Why is it ok for us to throw unwanted litter into rivers to pollute our oceans?  There should be a punishment fit for this crime!

To Rand Water extending the boundaries of the supply of water to villages, towns and cities far beyond the boundary of Gauteng.

It would be OK for our DWA authorities to listen to all those speakers at numerous conferences around South Africa, all telling similar stories of the problems relating to water and effluent problems. It is sad to note that attendees from DWA at these conferences dwindle after lunch.  It is sad that the expert voices explaining how to ameliorate all of these problems go unheard.  None so deaf….

Happy new year!

Jeremy Westgarth-Taylor

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