Day Zero on hold after heavy rains

But water must still be used sparingly, with EC dams under pressure


The heavy and deadly downpour across SA in recent weeks, which killed almost 100 people and left scores displaced in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal, also had a positive side to it: Day Zero was delayed throughout the country.
The department of water and sanitation this week announced that the country now has enough water in its reserves to sustain it through the upcoming dry winter season.
This announcement, however, comes as the department also raised concerns about Eastern Cape dam levels, which it said “continue to decline due to less than normal rainfalls and excessive water use”.
The department’s spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau, on Thursday said SA has 23,809.2m³ of water in its storage reserves.
He said such water was enough to sustain the entire country through the normally dry winter season, where decent rainfall is a dream in most parts of the country, except the Western Cape, which normally boasts wet winters.
Ratau, however, called on people to continue using water sparingly.
He said even though for the past two weeks the country has maintained stable dam levels at 73.7%, this is a 6.2% drop compared to the same period last year.
Ratau raised concerns about the ongoing water shortage and dry taps in areas around Makhanda and Gamtoos Valley near Port Elizabeth – areas the department said are “almost dry of potable water”, with their dams “at lowest levels”.
Ratau said the latest average dam levels in the Eastern Cape stands at 62.4%, a slight decline from last week’s 62.8%.
“Although vast parts of Eastern Cape received heavy rains in past two weeks, Gamtoos Valley and Makhanda remained a source of concern as they are almost dry of potable water.
“In Makhanda, residents rely on tanked water for basic use as the local river is left with the lowest levels.
“However, the department will continue to work with all the relevant stakeholders in the province to ensure that taps do not run dry,” he said.
Although there are some dams that have shown signs of improvement in the Amathole water supply system, such as Lainge Dam, which is currently sitting at 100.8%, Ratau said other dams were declining.
He said the Xilinxa Dam in Butterworth had in the past week declined from 18.0% last week to 17.7% this week, with Bridle Drift Dam in East London remaining at 44.3%, while Sandile Dam in Keiskammahoek dropped from 59.3% last week to 58.6% this week.
The regional manager of the South African Weather Service in the Eastern Cape, Hugh van Niekerk, said on Thursday that the Eastern Cape, except the Bay and Sarah Baartman regions, could expect a dry start to the winter from May through to early June...

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