DURBAN – Co-operative Governance MEC, Nomusa Dube Ncube, has warned of a “green drought” in KwaZulu-Natal, and the danger of running out of water in large areas of the province.
She highlighted low rainfall, heatwaves that were evaporating stored water, boreholes running dry, and falling dam and river levels that had forced some water works to stop pumping, which had left communities unable to get tap water.
“Clearly the drought that has ravaged our province since 2015 has not let up in many areas,” she said. “As a result, KZN remains in the grip of what is known as a green drought.”
This, she explained, meant a period of limited rainfall causing new but insubstantial plant growth.
Dube-Ncube said the next three months going into winter would be crucial, and raised the probability of water restrictions if the rains were not sufficient.
She cited the uThukela (Ladysmith) district, the Inkosi Langalibalele municipality (Escourt), and the uKhahlamba municipality (affecting Bergville, Winterton, Moyeni/Zwelisha and Langkloof water treatment works).
Farming, both subsistence and commercial, had been hard hit, especially in the Midlands, the MEC said.
“The threat to household food security, especially in the rural areas, is real,” she said. “The green drought continues to have a devastating impact on the farming sector, and support for the industry is being actively sought by the farming community.”
The South African Weather Service said seasonal forecasts were promising and above-normal rainfall was expected over the next three months.
“Normal rainfall averages between 210mm in the extreme north-west of the province (Newcastle) and 300mm in the coastal areas, so we expect to be getting above that,” said senior forecaster Jan Vermeulen.
Dube-Ncube said uMzinyathi District was already back on water restrictions due to very little rain and low river and dam levels.
She announced that R122million had already been set aside to assist with drought relief, and that parts of the province were viewed as “disaster areas”.
She said in KZN, the rainfall had not been of equal volume everywhere. There had been isolated storms and people assumed the drought was over, but the water table was not being replenished.
“The truth is that the ground and the soil water are still low and levels in farm dams are still dropping. Even more perilously, other dams remain critically low, notably Albert Falls Dam at 34%, Pongolapoort Dam at 42% and Goedertouw Dam at 45%. The total for all KZN dams stands at 55%.
“Although the situation is bad, we are in a better position than we were at the same time last year,” she said.
The Oliphantskop Dam has dried up, resulting in the shutdown of a water treatment works and communities reliant on that plant will have no water.
She said the Ladysmith water treatment works was struggling to draw water from the Klip River because it was not flowing, and the reduced water supply from the Ladysmith Water Purification works had negatively affected several towns.
There were also concerns raised with the Umgeni and Hazelmere systems. Spring Grove, Midmar, Albert Falls and Inanda dams were still a worry.
The provincial secretary of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa, Thube Zondi, said the drought would badly affect the farming industry and the economy.
“Most areas are dry and thus farmers cannot plant. We have also received reports that there are farms that were affected by the heavy rains, which saw most seeds being washed away”.
– THE MERCURY