A bout of heavy rains, an intense tropical storm and La Niña have concocted the perfect mix to allow South Africa’s average dam levels to be 20% higher compared to the same time last year.
The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) said on Wednesday that dams in the country now average 86.4% and significantly better than last year’s 56.6% average.
Recent rains have hit the right catchment areas, boosting water supply systems across the country.
The DWS said the Integrated Vaal River System, which consists of 14 dams, has “benefited immensely from the rains”.
Tropical storm Eloise get most of the credit for the higher dam levels, with the department saying it allowed provinces such as KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Free State to reach full capacity “overnight”.
Eastern Cape still dry
Not all provinces benefitted as much from the recent rains, with the DWS saying large parts of the Eastern Cape continue to experience dry conditions and that dam levels have dropped “at an alarming rate”.
The Eastern Cape has the lowest average dam levels in the country, sitting at 56.3%.
Poor rains have plagued the province for the past four years.
The Nelson Mandela Bay region is suffering the most in the Eastern Cape, with the Algoa water supply system recording “a measly” 16% capacity this week. This time last year, the system measured 26.1%.
The Amathole water supply system is at 37.4%, slightly lower than 41.4% one year ago and 37.6% just one week ago.
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The provincial government earlier declared the province a disaster area.
Western Cape holding thumbs for winter rain
Dam levels in the Western Cape lapped up heavy rains last year, but have since dropped to 56.1%.
This part of the country typically experiences dry summers and wet winters.
The department said the South African Weather Service predicted heavy rains for Cape Town until Thursday.
The province’s water supply system is at 73.8% capacity, an improvement over the 62.3% measured last year.
Winter means less rain
For most of the country, autumn and winter months mean significantly less rainfall.
This has already been observed, with the DWS saying most dams had already dropped from their full capacity of more than 100% up to 13% less.
Here are some easy tips to save water fast:
- Close the tap when washing your hands and brushing your teeth;
- Fix leaking taps as soon as possible – it is costly for the consumer and the environment;
- Place a bucket in your shower to collect water while you wait for it to get hot; and
- Try to avoid washing cars and paving with hosepipes – rather use soapy water in a bucket.
For in-depth information and tips on how to save water, read more here: EXPLAINER: Why reusing water is a lifeline for SA’s fresh water